It Takes A Village

Since breaking my ankle last week I have never been more appreciative of the help from my family. It’s moments like this where I feel so lucky to live so close to my parents and in-laws. 

Normally, on weekends when Craig is working graveyard, I get my one-on-one time with Gia. We go to the park, run errands and play. Now that I’m helpless with Gia, I’m totally reliant on Craig and our family. 

This past weekend was the first small challenge we had to sort out because of my broken ankle. Prior to getting injured, my mom had planned to drive down to Orange County to help my brother. He has two herniated discs, and after lots of physical therapy and pain, he needed to get an epidural to help him. (We sound like a bunch of gimps in this family!) Zach certainly needed my mom there, as he wouldn’t be able to drive after the procedure. 

With Craig at work Friday-Monday morning, my mom gone, and me being useless, it was my mother-in-law, Gail, who came to my rescue with Gia. 

My biggest worry this weekend was, how am I going to watch Gia? I can’t even change her diaper with this cast and pain, let alone chase her and prepare her food! Craig obviously couldn’t help me when he was home from work because he had to sleep during the day. Our solution was that Gia would have a weekend sleepover with Nana and she would come hang out with me during the afternoon when Craig was up and getting ready to head back to work.

Only Homie is enjoying the fact that I can’t do much:

 

This weekend everything worked out great! What was especially nice about Gail and Harry watching Gia was that they got to have the whole weekend to share with her. In a way, it was good timing because they are heading to a wedding this week and then going straight to see my sister-in-law, Michelle, afterwards. Michelle is due with my second nephew on the 17th – so Gia got to have fun with Nana and Papa before they go to meet their new grandbaby. 

Picture of Gia helping Nana in the kitchen:


 I have to say, this whole ankle ordeal has given my anxiety a major boost. I have endless guilt that I’m not able to do much of anything for Gia, except let her sit on my lap. I am always asking everyone who is helping me with Gia, “Is that okay? Are you sure?” Not to mention the endless amount of  times I’ve said, “I’m sorry.”

I hate that people have to wait on me and that I’m not able to care for my own child without help right now. I know this is all temporary and that it’s just the way things have to go right now – I don’t have much of a choice!

I’m looking at this whole thing as a mental challenge for myself. It’s just another test that has been thrown my way. As always, this will teach me something new, making me a better mother, wife and daughter. 

Photo of G looking too cool during her weekend with Nana & Papa:

Pumpkins + Munchkins

I’ve been a blogging slacker for the last three weeks or so, but I think you’ll understand why.  First of all, with the horrendous amount damage and displacement caused by the fires in our area the last couple of weeks, it just didn’t feel right to blog or post much on social media.  I felt guilty going about my everyday life knowing that just up the road people had lost absolutely everything.


Photo from my mom & dad’s front yard on day 1 of the fires:

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Craig and I donated to our local church, Northgate Christian Fellowship, but wished we could do so much more.  Craig did work some mutual aid in one of the hardest hit areas of Santa Rosa – the Coffey Park neighborhood.  He showed me pictures of the neighborhoods and it was shocking to see how unrecognizable things looked.

On the brighter side of things, we closed on our house earlier than expected and started moving in.  It’s seemed like a never-ending transition from the last house to the new one, and we aren’t sleeping there just yet, but I’m thinking we will be next week.  We are so excited to be in our new house, in such a wonderful neighborhood.  Our street is full of little ones and friendly families.  We’ve already met four of our neighbors and I can’t say enough about how welcoming and nice they are.

What I’m looking forward to most about the new neighborhood is Gia being able to make friends as she grows.  I just have such a good feeling about all of it and I can’t help but feel so fortunate.

To cap off the busy week that we’ve had as a family, Gia and I went downtown to stroll First Street for the Halloween Costume Walk.  I wondered how much we’d actually get to walk with a 14 month old, but it was so much fun and Gia did great.  She loved waving and saying hello to all of the other kids who were dressed up.

The only candy she had interest in hanging on to was her mini crunch bar.  By the end of our stroll it was half melted in the wrapper.  Of course I wasn’t planning on giving it to her – not enough teeth and that kid doesn’t need a sugar jolt.


Our little pumpkin with her candy of choice:

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There were some really great costumes and cute families who dressed up together.  Gia wore the pumpkin costume that I wore when I trick-or-treated for the very first time.  I wasn’t able to get her to wear the little pumpkin stem hat that went with it, but hey, I tried.   I’m thinking that the next Bennigson baby will have to wear the costume too.  Looks like I’ve already got a tradition in the making!

I hope you all have a great weekend doing whatever it is that you have planned!  Happy Halloween to all!

Love, Marriage & A Baby Carriage

Today is as good a day as any to publicly talk about how wonderful my husband is, especially because it’s our wedding anniversary.  This year has gone by faster than the last, simply because we are always chasing our growing girl, Gia.  I now know what it means when people tell me to cherish special moments because time goes by in the blink of an eye.

It’s hard to believe that Craig and I have been together for seven years total, three of which are as a married couple.  This last year has certainly been one of the best because we don’t just share life as a family of two anymore.  Seeing how far we have come since our first days as boyfriend and girlfriend is pretty cool.  To some degree, you always imagine what your life will be like when you’re married – I couldn’t have dreamed up a better life or found a better partner for myself.  Marrying Craig truly is the best decision I’ve ever made.


Here we are on our wedding day:

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How our relationship began is a pretty good story too, so I’d like to share that with those of you who don’t know it.  For those of you who’ve heard this tale before, feel free to step away from whatever device you are reading this on and move on to whatever is on your to-do list.

I first knew of Craig when I was in middle school.  Yes, we happened to go to the same middle school, as well as live approximately one mile apart from each other.  I’m not going to say I “met” Craig then because we were like 10 years old and only passed each other in the halls.  What I do remember of Craig from that time was he always had a baseball hat on and had a big super hero type of grin (he still has that grin today).


This is the type of smile I think of when I see Craig smile:

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I do remember hearing my dad talk about Craig and his baseball achievements often though.  I mentioned in my last post that our dad’s worked together as police officers in the same city for almost their entire career – well, they would brag about whatever it was that their kids were up to to anyone within earshot.  For Craig and I, our dad’s liked to share our sports stories.

I played softball my entire life, all the way though college.  Craig played baseball through college and played with the Colorado Rockies system for six years.  I guess you could say we had some things in common.  I’m not sure if Craig will or will not admit to hearing about me growing up, but he does tell people that we had an arranged marriage.  He can be a jokester, just like his dad.  Both of them are really just kids in adult bodies.

Okay, so back to going to school together….Craig went to the local high school in town and I went to an all-girls, Catholic high school in another city.  We didn’t see much of each other during our high school years, but I do recall hearing sporadic sports stories about him.

We both went off to college, Craig was closer to home at Cal and I was a few hours away at the University of Nevada.  During our college years we both were in “serious” relationships, but clearly that didn’t work out for either of us, and thankfully so.

I remember I had just graduated and wanted to continue living up in Reno, where I had also found a job.  I got a Facebook message (sign of the times!) from Craig, and yes, it was very random.  He asked me if I was living back in our hometown and I said no, but I was getting ready to move back.  I wasn’t happy with the job I was in and knew there would be more opportunity for me back in the Bay Area.

I didn’t think much of the message he sent me until I was settled back in at my mom and dad’s, saving money.  Craig was home for the off-season from playing with the Rockies organization and wanted to meet up to hang out.  I thought, okay, why not?

Craig invited me and one or two other friends to go out one night to the local watering hole.  Looking back on that night, I realize we totally ditched Craig’s friends and sat at the bar and talked forever.  There was a scruffy man sitting next to us who butted into our conversation to ask how long we had been together.  Both of us laughed and said we were absolutely not dating and we were just out for the evening with friends.  That was the very beginning of our relationship.


Here’s an early photo of the two of us at my grandma’s:

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It took a few months for either of us to actually admit that we were dating.  At the time, Craig was adamant about not having a girlfriend, clearly that backfired!  I knew from our first time hanging out together that I really, really liked him.  I tried to play it super cool, acting like I didn’t care if he was interested in me or not.  Good thing I did because I totally won him over.  Who could resist me anyway?! – I’M TOTALLY JOKING!    🙂

Craig and I dated for three years before he proposed to me.  At the time, a lot of my friends were getting engaged, getting married, the whole bit.  I always wanted Craig to work at his own pace regarding engagement, but the little girl inside me was waiting for her forever love.  Of course we had talked plenty about wanting to be with one another forever, but I was starting to think the worst and that Craig maybe didn’t want to marry me.

Just before Thanksgiving four years ago, Craig gave me the biggest surprise of my life. We had a fun day planned at Artesa (where we are now wine club members) to do a wine and chocolate pairing.  At the end of our tasting and tour we went out to the terrace to enjoy a glass.  I didn’t even notice that there were two bottles of wine on our table, which should have given things away.  (I’m a lightweight when it comes to booze, so one bottle was more than enough.)

Almost immediately after sitting down, Craig grabbed the second, unopened bottle of wine and showed it to me while he got down on one knee – it said “Will you marry me?” on the label.  From there I just remember crying tears of happiness – I didn’t even see the ring he was putting on my finger.  I just kept crying and saying, “Are you serious?!”  Yep, I was riding high on cloud 9.


The day I said, “Yes!”:

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A year later we were married in St. Helena, CA in front of our closest family and friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect wedding day.  Now, here we are – three years in and a lifetime to go.

Although I’m no marriage counselor, there’s one thing I do know:  The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person.  How do you know they’re the right person?  Well, you know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.

I’m sure we will have our ups and downs on our continued journey, but I look forward to all of it.  After all, life would be pretty boring if it was perfect.

The Longest Week Ever

It’s been almost a week since my last blog post and I’m beating myself up about it.  My goal is to try and post every other day, if I’m feeling inspired.  I’d hate to write just to fill the page to hit my personal quota.  I would much rather go without content for longer than I’d like, in order to feel like I have something I’m really wanting to talk about and share.  In today’s case, I have to update you all and let you know why I’ve been so absent!

As I’ve mentioned a few times throughout the last couple of weeks, we’re moving.  Now I can say “we’ve moved!”  Yay!  We are officially out of our old house and moved in with our new roomies – my mom and dad.  😉  This last week was kind of chaotic and most definitely would not have happened without the help from our families.


Here’s Gia with some great bed head, relaxing on bedding that needed to be packed up:IMG_0019


If it wasn’t for my father-in-law, and some of our friends, the grunt work of this move might have never happened.  Let’s just say they helped us move all of our crap into two, count ’em, two, storage units.  As of a couple days ago Craig and I were very seriously contemplating getting a third storage unit.  How asinine is that?!  Where did all this stuff come from??  We didn’t end up getting the third storage unit because the facility we are using is totally full.  I guess that’s a sign to start purging more of our things.

I’m so glad that we can get back to some normalcy in our lives now that we are in my mom and dad’s place for the next month and a half.  Gia had a fun time this week playing with both of her grandma’s while the Craig and I got things squared away with packing up.  G-girl had quite a few adventurous trips to the local park, as well as her first trip to the Nut Tree – – To this day I remember going there when I was little with my grandparents.  My grandpa even made me a replica of the giant rocking horses that they used to have there.  Don’t worry, I still have it stored away for Gia to use when she gets bigger.


Photo of Miss Gia having a blast at the Nut Tree:

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We ended our week on a really high note, celebrating our sweet friends, Sean and Jenn.  Craig and I had the pleasure of attending their wedding yesterday in Jenn’s parents backyard.  We had so much fun and thought it couldn’t have been a more perfect day.  Their adorable little girl Isla stole the show as she came down the aisle in her Radio Flyer just before her mommy (who couldn’t have been more beautiful) made her grand entrance.


Photo of the lovely couple after saying I do:

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Jenn and Sean looked fantastic and had a beautiful cake made by Wildflour Bakehouse, who I mentioned last week.  It was almost as stunning as the newlyweds!  Thank goodness Sean was a gentleman and didn’t shove the cake in his bride’s face after cutting into it.


Photo of the cake with signature macarons:

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As a sidenote, a few people have asked me this past week what the difference is between a macaron and a macaroon.  There is a BIG difference and I’m sure any pastry chef out there would cringe if someone called either of these treats by the wrong name.

macaron is a meringue-based cookie made with almond flour, egg whites, granulated sugar and powdered sugar, then filled with buttercream, ganache or fruit curd.  It’s a delicate treat with a crunchy, yet chewy exterior.  To add the the confusion, it’s also called a French Macaron.

macaroon is a totally different type of confection.  Mostly, this term is equated with a coconut macaroon, which is dense and moist.  It’s composed of egg whites, sugar and dried coconut, and sometimes dipped in chocolate.

I dunno about you guys but I like both!  I’ve never met a sweet treat I didn’t enjoy.

Speaking of sweet….I’ve got another pretty sweet collaboration going with a company based out of the UK, called Curly Ellie.  I found out about them through another mommy blogger who is based in the UK as well.  She has three daughters, all of which have beautiful curly hair.  I knew I wanted to try these products on Gia because taming her hair after bath time can be such a process.  Not to mention, I don’t want to hurt her little head getting those tangles out!

To make a long story shorter, I tagged Curly Ellie in a photo on Instagram with Gia in it, showcasing those curls in all their glory.  Curly Ellie said they would love to collaborate with me, as they mentioned how lovely Gia was.  I couldn’t agree more – obviously I’m biased!

I’m so excited to receive all of their products and try them out on Gia.  I’ll be sure to give you all a full report on what we think of them.  I might even try them myself.  After all, Gia did get her hair from me.  So for any of you mom’s out there with curly haired babes, stay tuned.  Or if you have beautiful curls yourself, you might want to think about looking into these products.  I hope they work wonders on Gia because I love discovering a brand or product and telling everyone about it.

I should also be receiving the leggings I got from the other company I’m collaborating with – Pineapple Clothing.  The shipping process has been delayed due to the horrible damage caused my Hurricane Irma.

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of Houston, Miami and Puerto Rico during these times.  May we all remember how lucky we are while others are facing such hardship.

To help efforts towards hurricane relief please visit the Red Cross.  There are many ways to help, donating through Red Cross is just one of those ways.

 

 

 

Happiness Is Your Hometown

So, we’ve done it.  We’ve done the thing we always swore we would never do.  Yes, we consciously decided to live in the town that we grew up in to raise Gia.  In high school I remember silently vowing to myself that I would never move back to sleepy little Benicia.  Look at us now – we’ve sold our first home here and are in contract with our next.  Go figure.


Picture of downtown Benicia:

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When I was a teenager, specifically during my high school years I didn’t dislike my hometown, but I also didn’t have a lot of love for it either.  I was often bored because most of my friends lived over the bridge.  (I went to an all girls, Catholic high school.)  Actually, I should retract that – I wasn’t bored.  My time was always filled with softball practice after school, homework and late night hitting + catching lessons that sometimes took me as far as San Jose.

In my early 20s, after graduating college, I moved back in with my parents for a little while, which meant the return to my Main Street town.  After finding my way, getting my first real job and saving money, I booked it out of Benicia and lived in Walnut Creek – a place where I still like to spend time.  I lived there for a year and during that time, I found myself constantly gravitating back towards Benicia.  I don’t know if it was the fact that my parents were there, or that I was beginning to appreciate the friendly, small town I called home for almost all of my life.  (Maybe it was a combo of the two?)

Fast forward to the present….Craig (he’s also a Benicia native) and I feel like we couldn’t have made a better decision about settling down here.  We are within walking distance of both of our parents, are close to cities where we like to spend our free time adventuring, and we feel like we are truly part of the community here.


Photo of Gia trying to join the seagull community here in town:

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I think it’s such a nice feeling that I know all of the faces at my gym and I can say hi to them when I see them at the Farmers’ Market, or in the grocery store.  I love the fact that when I walk downtown with Gia, the security guard at the bank always goes out of his way to say hi, or ask about our day.  Some may not like that type of thing and think that in a town like this everyone is in your business.  I’m sure there is some truth to that, but I only see the positives.

These are some of the reasons why I’m so happy to be living in our hometown, raising our daughter:

  • Support events and local vendors – Benicia is always good for a Fair or Festival.  Yesterday I made a quick trip downtown to the Fine Arts & Crafts Fair that I mentioned on my Instagram.  Gia and I strolled up and down First Street, then picked up some YUMMY macarons from Wildflour Bakehouse.  (Go check them out and thank me later!)  I’m sure there will be another fun event here in town soon, but I don’t know when.  You can always visit the city website to see the list of happenings around town.

Picture of the Fine Arts & Crafts Fair:

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  • Reconnect with people who also grew up here – I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with or even reconnecting with since living here as an adult.  A lot of it has to do with my lifestyle and having a child.  I’ve gotten to meet other parents who want to get together and made great friends through my husband.  It’s nice to see that people other than my husband and I have the same idea of “coming back home.”
  • Gia will go through an “I hate this town” phase too – It’s pretty likely that Gia will go through the same phase that I went through, but if that helps her find her way through life then that’s fine.  If she one day chooses to move back here, then I will be happy knowing she went through a similar thought process to mine.  If she lives elsewhere, whether it be 15 minutes away or a 15 hour drive, it will also make me happy knowing that she’s content being there.

If you’re a resident of Benicia, comment and let me know what you love about our town! I’d love to hear about other cities as well.  Let me know what you love most about where you live.  As much as I like living where I do, I know there will be days where I will feel like my high school aged self and “hate it.”  Just remember to stop and smell the flowers on days like that!


Picture of Gia smelling the flowers at yesterday’s event:

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Nothing Great Happens Inside Your Comfort Zone

Fitness is a huge factor in my life and helps me remember to really love myself.  Raise your hand if you are a woman, with kids, or without, who forgets to show yourself some love every now and then!  I’m pretty sure any woman reading this should be raising their hand, even if it’s only halfway up!

I try my best to workout at least five days a week, but sometimes with a toddler things don’t always go to plan.  If I had it my way each morning, I’d have my favorite breakfast around 8:30 a.m. – ENDORPHINS!  Don’t worry, I’d closely follow that with a real breakfast of scrambled eggs, with some avocado and a coffee the size of a big gulp!

There are definitely some days where I just can’t get out of the house quick enough to make the gym thing happen the way I’d like it to.  I remind myself that I live in a far from perfect world and if I don’t get to train the way I’d like that day, a little bit of training is better than none at all.

My mentality regarding how long I should be working out and what kinds of workouts I should be doing shifted a lot after giving birth to Gia.  Before our little firecracker arrived, I could literally go to the gym every single day, almost whenever I wanted.  After Gia’s arrival, that obviously changed and workouts needed to be efficient and intense, especially because I wanted my sense of fitness back.


Photo of Gia getting ready to leave the gym with me:

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I worked out everyday during my pregnancy and even went to the gym the day I delivered.  I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t scared of losing my fitness after becoming a mom.  I remember a week or so after Gia was born I thought to myself that I would literally never be in shape again and I’d just have to accept that this was the new me.  (There was NOTHING wrong with the new me because every postpartum body is beautiful!)

Now I realize that I don’t need to associate fear with negativity, because nothing great happens inside of your comfort zone.  Part of my old comfort zone was having the ability to workout for over an hour, if I wanted to, and just take my time in the gym.  Nowadays my workouts are no more than an hour, and some days they are even shorter.  I make the most of my time spent in the gym, because when you have mom guilt and lots of baby clothes to fold at home you get in and get out!

On the days where Gia and I get out of the house slower than usual, or if she has slept a little later, I have one workout that’s my go-to.  It’s quick and effective, gets my blood pumping and makes me sweat.

Disclaimer:  I’ll do my best to explain this to you without the use of photos — I’ll be sure to update this post with some photos/video for those of you who aren’t sure of certain movements I’m describing.  (I’m definitely not claiming I’m a fitness expert, I just know what I like and what works for my body after being an athlete my whole life.)


Ashley’s Favorite Workout When Pressed For Time

This entire workout should be repeated 3 times.  

Equipment needed: Jumprope, box steps (like those used in a step class – should be 3 levels high), kettlebell (I use a 30lb kettlebell), floor mat or yoga mat and a jump rope.  I also recommend downloading the Tabata Pro app (it’s free!) to keep track of your time and how many rounds you’ve completed.


This is what the box step looks like, except it should be three high, not two:

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Picture of the image you should see in the App Store when searching for Tabata Pro:

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  • 2 minutes of jumping rope
  • Touchdowns – 1 minute, no stopping. (Stand on step, jump off into a straddle and prepare to squat down over the step and  jump back onto the step.  Should be done quickly with full range of motion, while alternating which hand touches the step.)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Speed skaters – 1 minute, no stopping. (Stand with left foot on step and right foot on the ground.  “Speed skate” to opposite side of step, now with right foot on step and left foot on the ground.  Continue quickly alternating back and forth in skating motion.)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Step overs – 1 minute per leg, no stopping. (Stand with left foot on step and take right foot behind your left side, over the step and tap the ground.  Continue by bring right foot back to starting side to tap and continue sequence.  Aim for 30 step overs for each leg.)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Burpee box jump – 1 minute, no stopping. (Stand with step facing in front of you in a horizontal position.  Perform a normal burpee but with hands on the step instead of on the ground.  Once standing after completing the burpee, jump onto the step and repeat.)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Alternating toe taps – 1 minute, no stopping.  (Lay on mat with feet in the air so you are in an L position.  Alternate reaching for your toes engaging your core and slightly lifting shoulders off of the ground.)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Kettlebell swings – 1 minute, no stopping (Perform traditional crossfit style kettlebell swings, aiming for 20-25 reps.)

I’m sure that sounds a bit confusing without an example to look at, but like I said, I will work on posting that for you.  I can only accomplish so much in a day while in the process of moving and keeping a tiny human alive!

If you’re feeling a little frisky, or need an extra warm up to this workout, you can always start off with a 1-mile run for time before doing your Tabata style workout.  I do that on the days I’m not as rushed at the gym.  Your legs should feel like jell-o afterwards.  If not, you’re doing something wrong!  (This workout was adapted from a trainer of mine, Tony Quartini.  He is awesome and so funny!)

Let me know if you would like to see more workouts posted in the future (with videos/photos), and I’d be happy to oblige!

Fit happens one day at a time, so don’t beat yourself up….especially if you’ve recently given birth!!  🙂

When Life Gives You Lemons, Trade Them For Coffee

Remember when I told you about my hot friend???  Oh, yes you do….his name is coffee!  Now you’re telling me he was your hot friend first?!  Okay, okay, he can be a friend to all.


Pictured below is a gorgeous cappuccino from Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach, CA:

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I am absolutely a coffee person (sorry tea drinkers) and I live for finding great places to enjoy that dark, delicious, liquid gold.  I’ll even admit that many, if not all of my errands and outings, revolve around the ability to also grab a cup of the good stuff.  I’m sure many other people are similar to me in that sense.

Let me get one thing straight before I go ahead and tell you about some of my all-time Bay Area favorites….I by no means am claiming that I was the first to discover any of these coffee shops.  Some people get really possessive about their local hangs and haunts, claiming that they’ve known about them for years – sometimes people even get mad when they find out you are frequenting a place that they like to go.  Good news – there is room for us all!  My only intention here is to share the wealth.  I’m positive that many of you already know about the places I want to talk about, but what’s nice about that is knowing I’m not the only loyalist out there.

Let’s get this thing started before my first cup of the day starts to wear off!

There is a very special place in my heart for a spot called, Caffe Greco.  I’ve been going to this San Francisco staple for a long, long time.  It appeals to me because it’s located in the heart of North Beach and being the good Italian girl that I am, I like to be true to my roots.

They have a beyond friendly staff who I’ve gotten to know over the years.  They’ve seen me grow up in a sense – from high school age, to visiting when I was home from college, to having engagement photos taken there, and now Gia is keeping up the tradition by visiting too.


Here’s Craig and I trying to get comfortable during our engagement shoot at Caffe Greco:

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A trip to Caffe Greco wouldn’t be complete without grabbing a pastry from Mara’s Italian Pastries, just a block away.  I highly suggest getting their “raspberry wreath,” or at least that’s what I’ve always called it.  When you walk up to the window at Mara’s you’re greeted with the most beautiful pastries, made fresh each day.  Although I’ve still never been to the motherland (Italy), I imagine it would have pastry shops like this all over.


Picture of pure decadence:

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The next up is Artis, located on 4th Street in Berkeley, CA.  Artis is unlike many coffee shops out there in the sense that they’re all about the story of your coffee, from seed to sip.  My mom loves Artis and makes pit stops here often, especially if she’s made a trip to the Monterey Market for some beautiful produce.

I like the location of Artis as much as I like their coffee because you can stroll the shops and make an afternoon of your visit.  The knowledgable staff at Artis make for a great customer experience, which is harder to find these days that you would imagine.  If you’re willing to do some experimenting with your coffee tastes, this is the place to do so.

Also, for all those who commute into the city for work, there is now a Hayes Valley location!  Yay!


This next spot I’m going to mention is beloved in the Bay Area and it is taking over – Philz Coffee.  My first encounter with Philz came back when I was working for Virgin America.  Before last year’s big merger with Alaska Airlines, Virgin was always about supporting local.  We started serving Philz Coffee on all of our flights and I vividly remember when that shift happened.  All of the in-flight team members were schooled on the coffee at headquarters, in Burlingame.  It was a really cool and unique experience because essentially Philz was brought to us to be demoed and tasted.


My days with Virgin:

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The majority of Philz locations are in the city and on the peninsula, but now more and more are sprouting up all over.  Berkeley has a few locations and better yet, there is one in Walnut Creek now.  My sister-in-law, Michelle even mentioned to me that they have some opening in the greater San Diego area.


I know that I said I was going to mention a few of my Bay Area go-to coffee shops, but I cannot finish this post without mentioning two places that are a little bit out of the area.

The Flying Goat and Bibo Coffee Co. are both fantastic.  The Flying Goat is located in the heart of Healdsburg, CA, while Bibo is in Reno, NV.

I stumbled upon The Flying Goat with my parents when they became members at a great winery in Healdsburg, called Lambert Bridge.  You should always drink copious amounts of coffee before wine tasting! 😉

Bibo is a place I discovered in college at the University of Nevada.  I spent a lot of time studying there and finding myself during those years.  Now, they have quite a few more locations sprinkled throughout the biggest little city.  I think Craig and I will be needing to make a trip up that way soon, not only for the coffee, but to get some Wolfpack apparel for Gia.

Make it a good day, and remember, coffee is good at any hour!

Local Girls Do It Better

A few posts back, I mentioned that my husband and I are in the selling process with our home and are getting ready to move.  I don’t think that the couple moving in realizes that they’ve hit the neighbor jackpot by purchasing our house!

Our next door neighbors are wonderful people – they grab my packages if I’m out of town, they let me borrow an egg or two when my mom brain neglects to add them to the grocery list, and they keep an eye out for people who don’t belong in the neighborhood.  Pretty much everything you could hope for in a good neighbor.

I’d like to think I, myself, am a good neighbor as well.  Keeping with the theme of being neighborly and kind to one another, I wanted to share some juicy gossip with you about “the girl next door”, her name’s Nicole, for all those wondering.

She is a local boss lady who owns and runs one of the greatest little boutiques to happen to our town – Pink Arrows Boutique.


Cute and oh so soft pullover sold at Pink Arrows:

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If you have spent any time in Benicia, (in my case, the majority of my childhood and now adult life) then you know we have a plethora of hair salons, antique shops and mediocre food.  Now Benicia can not only be known to the world as the state’s third capitol, but the home of Nicole’s Pink Arrows!


Nicole’s boutique is in a quaint location and is as friendly as she is:

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Here’s some Q + A and inside scoop on the owner, Nicole, and her dream, turned reality:

What inspired you to start Pink Arrows Boutique?

My love for fashion was nurtured as a child….and while still in pigtails, my mom taught me how to sew.  Over the next 20 years I graduated from FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) and built an extensive career that included design, merchandising, buying and quality control.  But, my dream was to always open a boutique.

About three years ago, when I was between jobs, I decided it was time, and the idea for my boutique began.

How’d your boutique get it’s name?

The name Pink Arrows balances bold symbols of beauty and strength.  Throughout my life I have admired many women, including my mentors – my mom and grandmother – in their aspirations to successfully combine the two.  My goal is to fill my boutique with modern, yet cozy and bohemian, glamorous clothes and accessories that women will covet.

What do you think makes Pink Arrows special?

My goal is to always look for pieces that have the softest fabrics, the best fit and the most unique graphics.  I have spent a good part of my career in sourcing and quality control, visiting factories overseas, and I have a unique eye for detail.  Sourcing is my passion.  

I love when customers are surprised at the range of sizes and prices that I carry.  I’m not just trying to cater to one age group or one body type.  It’s a good feeling when someone walks in skeptical and leaves having found something they love….and with a smile.

What’s the toughest part about running your own business?

The same challenge every woman feels – there is never enough time in the day for everything!  Trying to balance work, family, friends, etc., there is always a trade off (sometimes it’s sleep).  I truly believe if you are doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work.  I have had some jobs during my career that were tough to wake up for everyday, where the work environment wasn’t positive, or the commute was CRAZY LONG.  I am super grateful to live in Benicia and work in Benicia.  I get to surround myself with so many amazing people on a daily basis.  

Do you have any future plans for the business?

My goal for the last few years has been to find a location in Benicia for my shop.  Now that I’ve found it, I’m settling in to my new surroundings and constantly trying to improve the space.  I am loving that I accomplished that goal and now I realize I need to set new goals for the future.  For right now, I’m just grateful.

If you could raid one celebrity closet, whose would it be?

That is a tough one!  There are so many great style icons, but if Nicole Richie were my size, she would definitely be my pick.  I love how she mixes bohemian prints in such a fantastic way.  She is fearless and has a confidence that is contagious.  I admire people who take risks with their style and are not afraid of what others will say.


It’s only appropriate that Nicole loves another Nicole’s style:

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love everything that Pink Arrows Boutique is about – from how it got it’s name, to Nicole’s attention to detail!  It’s definitely the kind of place I want to tell my friends about.  I’m also all for a supporting local, especially when the woman who owns and runs the boutique wants to represent women of different sizes and styles.

Life is too short to be tearing others down.  We need to support one another and be happy for the achievements of others.  Get out there and spread the word about Pink Arrows, or better yet, come check it out.

You better believe I picked up something for Gia and myself during our Saturday afternoon downtown stroll….


Picture of the goods that Gia and I scored:

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Pink Arrows Boutique Business Hours:

Currently the shop is still on “summer hours,” and is open Tuesday/Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.; Thursday/Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., & 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., & 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.  They are closed Sunday and Monday.

You can make an appointment by e-mailing Nicole at nicoley@pinkarrows.com, or calling 844-264-6456.

They will adjust their night time hours to shorter “winter hours” in November.

Pink Arrows Boutique Address:

301 First Street, Benicia, CA 94510 – They are located in the courtyard between Plein Air Gallery and Gallery 621, just past Rookies Bar and Grill.


 

 

Fantastic Favorites

So….I woke up this morning in complete shock – I slept until 7:45 a.m.!!!  That does not happen, like ever!!  I couldn’t even tell you the last time I slept that late, even before Gia came around!

I was kind of excited that I had slept that late, but then I was kind of annoyed because I had already wasted a good chunk of my morning.  Regardless of that, I guess my body was letting me know I needed the rest.  When I woke up, Gia was playing quietly in her crib, happy as a clam.  She must have known mama needed the rest too.  🙂

After hitting the gym with my girl, while Craig was at a training for work, I put Gia down to snooze and got to thinking about some of my favorite things.  Let’s be real, I have a lot of favorites when it comes to many different categories, and they are ever-changing.  I always enjoy hearing about favorites and suggestions from others, so I thought it’d be a nice thing for me to share with all of you.

As you may have seen earlier on my Instagram, I was making a quick and easy frittata with Gia.  It’s one of my favorites for breakfast, or in today’s case, it was lunch.  I thought I’d share this recipe with you, along with my favorite cookbooks of the moment, as well as a few of my favorite gifting items.

Favorite Cookbooks of the Moment:

“Eating Purely” – by Elizabeth Stein

This cookbook is awesome because it keeps things super simple.  Cooking certainly doesn’t have to be rocket science, and this book shows that.  It has more than 100 all-natural, organic, gluten-free recipes for an overall healthy life.

I don’t eat a strictly gluten-free diet, but I will definitely make things that require you to use gluten-free ingredients.  I don’t discriminate!

The recipes are pretty fun and approachable, ranging from brunch and salads to vegetarian mains.  (Craig and I enjoy being carnivores, but it speaks volumes that he will eat anything lacking meat that I make from this book.)


Here’s a look at the frittata I made this afternoon from “Eating Purely:”

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“The Seasoned Life” – by Ayesha Curry

I can’t be the only person who is loves the Curry family, can I?!  I love Ayesha’s cookbook because it comes from her roots and everything is super easy to pull off!  I’m sensing a theme here, aren’t you?….nowadays I need quick, easy, nutrient rich and delicious!  Ain’t nobody got time for anything other than that!

There’s something about a good meatloaf that makes me feel like I’m eating at grandma’s, and Ayesha’s is one even grandma would approve of.  I remember when I was newly pregnant with Gia, meatloaf was my first craving!

I also love this cookbook simply because Ayesha Curry is just like any other mom out there.  I know, I know – I don’t even know her, but I did have the pleasure of meeting her and her husband, Steph, when I was still working.  I want to support this mama because she is following her dream, as we all should!

“The Big Book of Organic Baby Food” – by Stephanie Middleberg MS, RD, CDN

Giving your baby solids for the first time is a pretty exciting milestone.  (At least it was for me!)  The first thing we gave Gia was green beans and she didn’t exactly love them.  My thought process with solid food was that I should give her veggies and not-so-sweet foods first.  It’s a given that a baby will like bananas.  It’s like dessert for them!

This book was great for me when I was in a food rut with Gia.  I was adamant about making all of her food and wanted to make sure she was only getting the best and healthiest kinds of food.  My favorite thing about this cookbook is that the food progresses with your baby.  As your child gets older, the food is a different variety, with different textures and recipes.

Now, I am less anal about the things that she eats.  I don’t let myself get upset if she will only eat yogurt all day, or skips a serving of milk.  I can’t sweat the small stuff and I know she is growing and developing properly because of what I feed her and how I care for her.


Here is photo evidence of Gia’s first encounter with green beans:

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Favorites for Gift-Giving Right Now:

Venus Et Fleur

Elegant luxury is the best way I can describe what you get from Venus Et Fleur.  It delivers the romantic tradition of sending flowers, but with exceptionally stylish design.  To be honest, I don’t really recall how I stumbled upon this company, but I recently sent a Le Petite box of champagne colored roses to one of my best friends for her 30th birthday.

I have to admit they are a bit of a splurge, but well worth it indeed!  What makes these flowers so unique, yet also pricey, is that they are real roses that can last for up to a year, if cared for properly.  I know some of you are calling BS right now, but if you go look at their website and read about their “eternity roses” you will see what I mean.

This is the type of gift that is best suited for someone who appreciates a meticulous, hand-crafted floral design.


This is the exact Venus Et Fleur arrangement I sent my girlfriend, Catherine:

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Glassybaby

Glassybaby is a glass blowing studio that sells unique, handmade candle votives and drinkers.  It’s a Seattle based company that has multiple locations, with Berkeley being the closest to me here in the Bay Area.

I heard about Glassybaby a few years ago from my dad.  Yes, believe it or not my dad is very up on what’s cool.  He regularly reads his magazines, like GQ and Esquire, and should probably be at New York Fashion Week right now.  (He’s a tough guy but likes to look good.  He was a model when he was my age, but that’s neither here nor there!)

My dad bought a variety of Glassybaby drinkers as a Mother’s Day gift for my mom a while back.  I looked into the company after he bought them and found out they hosted glass blowing parties as well.  I had my 29th birthday celebration there last year and it was a blast!

I love giving the votives and drinkers as gifts because they have any and every color/hue that you can imagine.  What makes them really special is that they all have a specific name.  For example, I got a good friend of mine a votive a few months ago that was a gradient silver color.  It was called “Silver Lining.”  She was going through a tough time and I wanted her to have a little pick-me-up.

I enjoy giving gifts from Glassybaby because they can have deeper meaning, depending on the occasion.

Here’s is a picture of me at my birthday party with a bada** glassblower who helped me craft my own beautiful bowl:

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Stargazer Barn

I cannot talk about Stargazer Barn enough!  Yes, this is another floral arrangement type of company, but their blooms are show stopping!

I first heard about Stargazer Barn through an old friend and colleague, who happens to be a very successful blogger – Kristy Wicks.  (If you don’t already follow her on Instagram, go ahead and do it now, thank me later.)  She partnered with Stargazer Barn and I decided to see what they were all about after hearing her rave about them.

The blooms that they grow are definitely flowers for flower lovers, if you know what I mean.  Stargazer Barn grows tulips, lilies and irises.  Farming is hard work and these people work tirelessly to ensure that the flowers you send/receive are enchanting.  They offer actual varieties of tulips, instead of “red tulips” or “white tulips.”  The same goes for for their lilies.

Anything you order from Stargazer Barn would stand out in a crowded marketplace.  If you know a flower connoisseur, I recommend sending them some of these beauties right away!


Here a few shots of flowers I have sent to friends:

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I could keep this favorites variety list going and going, but I’ll save some for another day. I also want to share some of my favorite baby products/toys because no mom and dad should be missing out on some of the things I’ve come across.

Also, I have a long list of fitness related products that I can’t live without, so that will be coming soon too.  And of course, you can always count on an eventual post about my favorite places to dine, sip and hang!

I hope you take my advice and look into some of the things I’ve mentioned.  The gifts will not disappoint and neither will the recipes from the cookbooks!

Until next time my friends!

xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shrinking Attention Spans

It’s been brought to my attention by my brother, Zach, that people have the attention span of goldfish and I should have more photos on the blog. (Goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds, while the average American has an attention span of 8 – yes, I looked it up.)  I’m in complete agreement and love that someone gave me some constructive feedback!

The real reason why I didn’t put any photos in previous posts was because I was a bit overzealous about getting this whole thing started.  I thought that trying to find the right photos to enhance my story-telling would slow me down.  I understand that I’m going to have to take the time to add this type of content to keep the attention of all these goldfish – not everyone enjoys such a text heavy blog.

With my brother’s advice in mind, I got to thinking about what photos I do have and what kind of post I could create with them.  Of course I immediately thought of Gia and being a mom.  I don’t have any shortage of photos when it comes to that kid.  If I’m not mistaken, I think I have over 4,000 photos and videos on my iPhone and the vast majority are of her sweet little mug.  Prior to Gia’s big arrival last year, many of my photos were of the dog and my growing pregnant belly.

I know other mom’s and parents out there have phones filled with photos of their child/children doing anything and everything.  I feel like I have to document it all – even if that means I’ve become a mamarazzi.  I’ll wear that title with pride until the day I die!

I’d like to think that there’s lots of people out there reading this, but if I’m being honest, I know that it’s likely just my close friends and definitely my mom!  For those of you reading who I don’t know personally, let me introduce you to my little family through photo…..

The number one person in my life – my daughter, Gialina:IMG_8113

This picture of Gia and I was taken at a great little restaurant in Berkeley, CA, called Riva Cucina.  It was my family’s first time here and it won’t be our last.  The staff was so friendly and accommodating, and of course the food was delish!  I recommend getting their Antipasto Misto as a starter!


This is my hunky husband.  I couldn’t ask for a better partner and father to my daughter. Meet Craig:

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To date, this is my favorite picture of Craig and Gia.  We were getting a frozen yogurt and trying to stay cool during a heat wave.  As you can see, Gia did not want to give up the spoon.


These two are the people I look up to most, my parents.  I always want their approval and to make them proud.  Meet Rick & Sherri:

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Let me tell you about the restaurant that this photo was taken at….When Gia was 10 months old we took a road trip to visit my brother down in Southern California.  He had been wanting to take us here for ages.  It did not disappoint!!  The restaurant is called Farmhouse and it was fantastic.  They didn’t miss a thing when it came to the food!  They even have blankets placed on every chair, as it’s an outdoor dining experience only.  Before eating here I highly suggest visiting the on site gardens.  Check out their website to see what I’m talking about – Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens.


Last but not least, on to my younger, better looking brother.  He’s the most compassionate, creative and all around awesome person I know.  Meet Zach:

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This photo of Zach and Gia cracks me up every time!  It was taken at Gia’s baptism, which also happened to land on my first Mother’s Day.  Being the good brother that he is, Zach flew in from SoCal to be there.  I think Gia is trying to show Zach how to give a proper “blue steel” pose.

Sidenote:  Zach is an über talented graphic design guy.  I suggest that you go follow his work on Instagram at @zachnichdesigns.


There, now you have some faces to go with the names that I will bring up on my blog quite often.  After all, without these people I wouldn’t be who I am today!