It’s OK to Miss Them: The Back-to-School Blues

I grabbed a long sleeved shirt from my closet this week. It’s the first time since Winter released her grip on us in late May. I was convinced Summer might not ever arrive. Spring had peeked out at us, but didn’t seem intent on sticking around. The tulips emerged, the trees bloomed, and still I held my breath.

I feared just what happened.

That this Summer, once it brightened our mornings and graced our doorsteps, would be both beautiful and brief.

There are two camps of people: those who’d rather be cold than hot. At this very moment, those people are celebrating…yanking their scarves and boots from the back of their closets in preparation, switching the decor in their homes to reflect the impending Fall months and placing their mental orders for pumpkin spice-everythings.

I am not in this camp. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pair of boots (and so much of the food that appears this time of year), but ahhhh…I will never get enough of the warmth and everything glorious that accompanies it.

The opposite folks – those like me – will take 102 over 22 every day of the week. No mittens, just flip-flops. No heavy Winter Coats, just a light jacket. No bundling, burrowing or freezing temperatures to avoid.

But more than all of this, more than missing the warmth and long sunshiny days, this particular Summer was special because of my small people. At nine and eleven, they just might be the perfect age for all things fun, family and summertime. Sure, they fought. They are siblings. And there were days I thought my brain might explode from attempting to juggle one too many camps, one too many requests for time with friends, one too many hours of a house filled with neighborhood kids who have a volume dial set permanently on LOUD.

But I miss them.

Every year…and I do mean every single year, I’ve secretly (and sometimes not-so-secretly) celebrated the return to routine, the magic of a quiet house and little minds suddenly occupied with school work rather than begging for more activities.

But not this year.

This year, I miss them.

I’m excited about watching their minds grow, thrilled to bear witness to the students they are and the young adults they are becoming.

But I really like them. And having them around less actually makes me a little melancholy.

This Summer was filled with firsts. And a ton of sports. (of course.)

Cooper Baseball Rookies Team 2015We traveled for the first time with baseball and softball.

Delaney Softball Jacksonville 2015My small girl went away to Camp – for an entire week. She’s still walking in the clouds from the experience. And I survived her absence.

Delaney Camp Ondessonk Rock ClimbingOur family vacation to Gulf Shores was one of the best ever.

Gulf Shores FamilyI didn’t care about the jellyfish (every one of us was stung). I didn’t care that we lost almost an entire day to rain. I *almost* didn’t even care that we couldn’t get in to the ocean. At all. (seriously. the jellyfish.) We watched movies, we played marathon games of Uno, we ate too much food, we dug for seashells, read on the beach, snuggled in bed as the sun came up and watched the ocean in all its glory, and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Gulf Shores Shells

Gulf Shores Delaney ReadingYou see? I miss them. They are sitting in the magic years….a time when children are old enough to have great conversation, express their own opinions, ask interesting questions, make a sandwich on their own, shower, get dressed and clean their rooms…and yet, they still LOVE their mom and dad. We haven’t hit the invisible wall that suddenly makes parents uncool, boring and decidedly annoying to be around. Instead, we can still rock a photo booth together.

Gulf Shores Photo BoothYes, the Magic Years.

They still hold my hand, love to be hugged, value my opinion and prove over and over again that family is a treasure.

So, you can bet, while I confess to enjoying the silence and the ease of getting my work done uninterrupted, I’m still waiting at the door when they come home from school each day and I DO miss them while they are gone.

Back to School 2015I may be alone as I know there are many moms (and dads) relishing this back-to-school time and I’ll embrace it after while, but for now, I’m content to know it is ok to miss them and this Summer of everything.

Top Five Summer to Fall Wardrobe Transition Pieces

With back-to-school right around the corner, everyone has their eye on Fall! While it may still be Summer-like weather in most of the country, there are ways you can transition your wardrobe to look the part without feeling too much of the heat. Here are the top five pieces that will help you perfect the Summer to Fall transition:

1. The scarf

add scarf for fall

Throwing a scarf over your Summer tee and shorts (or skirts or dresses!) look instantly adds a Fall vibe to your look. Choose a lightweight material in a darker Fall print to channel cooler weather.

2. The bootie

booties with shorts

Swap your sandals for a bootie for a Fall upgrade. They work great with shorts, Summer dresses, and of course jeans!

3. Military jacket or vest

add cargo vest for fall

Focusing on Fall is easy with an olive or khaki military-style jacket. If you can’t bear to wear a jacket, a vest is just as effective! Layer over dresses, tank tops, and tees.

4. Leather jacket

add leather jacket for fall

Adding a little leather is an instant Fall upgrade. They are the perfect topper for everything: Summer lightweight dresses and maxis, tank tops, tees, and blouses.

5. Plaid

wear plaid for early fall

Nothing says Fall more than a little plaid, which is why a lightweight plaid button down is the perfect transition piece! Roll the sleeves up and pair with shorts or boyfriend jeans. Or throw one on over a tank for an easy layered look.

Back to School, Saving Time and Eating Vegetables

Every morning, I’m up before the sun comes up. Lest you think I’ve turned in to some early-bird or that I’m a martyr, I’m happy to clarify: I do not do this during the Summer months, but once school is back in session for my kids, I value the few minutes of quiet before the chaos of the day kicks in. While I adore (love, cherish, worship) the warm, sunny months, there is something beautiful about getting back in to a routine – especially when our days are so packed.

Like you, we juggle school, work, multiple sports, favorite activities and just….life. Since it is so crazy from one day to the next, I try to take steps to save time and allow us to spend more time together. Delaney, Cooper and I are excited to have partnered with Libby’s to share a few back-to-school recipes (two that keep veggies as a part of our meals!) and tips for making the most of our time together.

You know we enjoy cooking as a family, we LOVE video and we love to do video together.  Here’s the fun we created:

If you are looking for the recipes:

Sweet Corn Salsa

Libby's Sweet Corn Salsa

Combine:

2 Cups of Libby’s Sweet Corn (the Vegetable Cups are perfect)
1/2 cup of diced red and green peppers
1/4 cup red onion
1 teaspoon of cilantro
2 tablespoons of honey
Salt and Pepper to taste

Perfection. You are done!

Libby's Sweet Corn Salsa

Butter Cream Pasta

Libby's Butter Cream Pasta

Boil your choice of pasta (my kiddos love bow tie pasta)

Butter Cream Sauce

1/3 cup of butter
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of minced garlic (optional)
Combine and cook over medium heat until thickens

To Pasta, add sauce, 1 Vegetable cup of Libby’s sweet corn , 1 Vegetable cup of Libby’s peas, and 1 teaspoon each of fresh oregano and basil.

Libby's Butter Cream Pasta

Enjoy!

I so hope Back-to-School time has been painless for you. You will have to let me know what you think of the recipes if you try them (and if your kids help!) Thank you for being here with me.

Disclosure: I’ve had a long-term relationship with Libby’s and the kids and I partnered with them to create these recipes and this video. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

10 Hot Lipsticks to Try this Summer

I know it seems like summer is over because the kids are heading back to school, but it’s really not. In California, we have hot weather well into November and I think much of the country is still warm through September at least. Summer also doesn’t technically end for a few weeks yet, so yes, we are justified in still wearing some pretty amazing lipsticks!

hot lipstick colors for summer

Today I wanted to share with you my top 10 favorites. I love bright colors and rocking bright lips, so you’ll obviously see that represented here, but I tried to include some more muted colors for those of you who just aren’t feeling so bright. I promise, there is something for everyone.

10 hot lipsticks to try for summer

As you can see there’s a bit of a theme here: reds, pinks and oranges! I stayed away from darker browns & plums because those tend to do well in the fall. We also have a price range – starting at $6 for the NYX and going up to $23 for the Sugar. I realize it sounds pricey, but I love the stuff.

Okay so let’s do this! Hopefully you can find a color in here that will look fabulous on you, I am confident you can. I’m going to list starting at the top left and going across each column.

  • MAC in Show Orchid – $16 — This is a very vibrant pink and is so, so fun! I own this one and absolutely love it. It might not be the best ‘starter’ bright lipstick, but once you’ve got the hang of wearing brighter colors, this one is awesome. You must give it a try.
  • Nº7 in Tempt – $9.99 — This is a perfect lipstick for those of you who aren’t used to wearing bright lip colors. It’s sheer so you’re still getting a pretty red but without it being as bright and colorful.
  • Revlon in Red Revival – $7.49 — This was one of the first red lip colors I ever bought and I loved it. It’s what started me on wearing fun, bright colors. The color is strong and is a true, bright red, and it’s less than $8 so you can try it and not like it and that’s okay.
  • MAC in Violetta – $17 — I bought this color on a whim in the Paris airport. (I tend to buy funky colors in airports!) But I absolutely love it and have not a single regret. It’s a beautiful purple color without being too crazy. You will probably have to be used to wearing bold colors already, but when you are, go for this beauty.
  • NYX Butter Lipstick in Pink Coral – $6 — NYX is another great option for sampling some fun colors. The brand is known and loved, but not too pricey. This pretty coral is also a fun way to wear bright colors without them being too bold. It’s also absolutely perfect for this season.
  • Butter LONDON in LadyBird – $22 — This shade of red was so different than I expected. When you look at it, it looks more red than orange. But when you put it on, it’s more orange than red. I think that makes it a perfect summer lipstick because both red and orange are hot. It’s definitely bright and so pretty. It comes in lip crayon too.
  • Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment – $23 — This is a very sheer color. In fact, I wouldn’t include this in any ‘bright’ lipstick color section, but it’s a great option. It gives your lips just enough color to make them stand out a bit more though without feeling like you’re wearing too much. It’s also great for your lips.
  • Topshop Lipstick in LoveStruck – $12 — This pretty pink/coral color is definitely on the list to be a summer lipstick go-to. It’s enough color but not too bright. It is a perfect blend.
  • Revlon ColorStay in Cruise Collection – $8.59 — I think every girl needs a pretty pink in their lipstick collection and this Revlon option is perfect for it!
  • Burt’s Bees Lip Crayon in Hawaiian Smolder – $8.99 — The Burt’s Bees lip crayons are some of my favorites. They go on so smooth, feel great, and are 99% all natural. It doesn’t hurt that the colors are fabulous.

There you have it – some of my favorite summer lipstick colors. What do you think, which ones are your favorites? Are you a bright lip gal or prefer more muted colors? I’d love to hear what you think!

Shop, Earn, and OWN with iConsumer

I don’t know about you, but being able to shop online has changed my life. As much as I’ve always love to shop in general, the ease of seeking, finding and purchasing what I need (sometimes at the last minute) from the comfort of my office and home has saved me time, stress and yes, money.

Coupons, discounts, free shipping and cash back have all made this shopping online business appealing, easy and very friendly in the ‘money-saving’ department. But now there is a new way to embrace all of these benefits and OWN a piece of a company at the same time. Allow me to introduce you to iConsumer – a shopping portal that allows you to save money on purchases, accumulate cash back AND own stock in the company – all while you shop.

iConsumer: Shop, Earn, Own iConsumer: Shop, Earn, Own

What do I mean?

I mean, as you head to the stores you typically shop online, make purchases, you will be earning stock each and every time. iConsumer has partnered with more than 1,600 stores, so it is easy to find your favorites. Oh…and if you don’t see a store you love and typically shop, iConsumer wants to know about it. Simply send them a quick support ticket.

With the motto Shop + Earn + Own, iConsumer wants their community to not only save money, but to be business owners as well.

Is it really that easy?

Yes.

Here’s how it works:

  • You head to iConsumer and sign up.
  • The first thing you will do in the process is install the iConsumer button (a simple process) that will notify you as you head to partner shops and track your spending, earning, and owning. After making my first purchase using the portal, I forgot the button was installed, continued my weekly shopping and was amazed to find myself receiving emails notifying me I had earned additional cash back and stock.
  • Search for your favorite shops, make a list of those you love and seek out the best and most current deals.
  • Use the apps: IOS and Android options make shopping (and earning) on the go easy.

iConsumer: Shop, Earn, Own

To answer a few questions:

Really, Danielle, what do you mean by ‘earn stock’.

When you sign up, you are gifted your first ‘pending stock shares’. After that, every time you make a purchase or recommend the site to a friend, those shares will increase.

What are the shares worth?

From iConsumer, “The SEC won’t let us tell you that (and it’s only our opinion, anyway).  What we can tell you is what people are buying and selling it for. When the SEC has qualified our offering, and we’re allowed to sell our stock, we plan to begin at $.09 a share.

Can I sell my stock?

The short answer, “yes”. Once the SEC ‘qualifies’ the iConsumer stock, they will work with a stock transfer agent to make it possible (and easy) for you to sell, though it is important to note, as with all stock, you need a buyer in order to sell and that can’t be guaranteed. However, I love the idea of watching my shares in a growing company with a novel concept continue to expand.

Stock ownership is confusing.

I get it, this concept is new. While many people own stock in a company, the idea of earning ownership while you are doing something you do all the time anyway, may seem just too good. Not to worry, one of the things iConsumer is doing well, is supporting and guiding their community as they grow and expand. They have created a Shareholder’s Academy to help you to understand the process, learn about dividends and feel comfortable with what you are earning.

When do you get your cash back? 

Approximately 90 days after the purchases are reported and once you have accumulated $25 earned.

How do I keep track of my earnings and ownership?

Your individual iConsumer dashboard tracks everything for you – the stores you visit, the purchases made, the cash back earned and your pending stock.

Other FAQs can be answered here.

Connect with iConsumer:

Find them on Facebook.

Follow them on Twitter.

I’d love to know what you think once you’ve had time to explore the site (and sign up!)

Disclosure: I’m excited to be partnering with iConsumer as they are introduced to the market and continue to grow. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared are mine and mine alone.

First Day of School Jitters? Understood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about back-to-school and my kids growing up (way too fast!) and I’m not sure I like it one little bit. But that certainly doesn’t stop time from flying by, now does it? Every year since pre-school and kindergarten, I’ve gathered school supplies, I’ve purchased brand new shoes and made sure uniforms are ready to go. I’ve labeled, and lunch-boxed, I’ve visited classrooms and teachers.

I’ve nurtured little hearts who were both giddy and filled with nerves and I’ve calmed my own big heart, sometimes thrilled to ‘get back to routine’ and absorb the quiet while other times, I’ve barely saved my tears for the moment they were safely within the doors of the school or classroom.

Letting go and sending our little ones on a journey to independence and knowledge, especially for the first time, can be tough. Since I am reminded of that very first time each year as we prepare for that ‘big day’, I created a list of tips over on SheKnowsExperts to help ease you and your new-schooler in to this transition. (I know it can be tough on both of you!)

Delaney First Day of Kindergarten

Trust me, I know it is a ‘mixed-emotion’ event, so some of the tips are practical and some tap in to how you and your kiddos feel about this new journey. Head on over and let me know what you think. I’d love to know how you are working through the first day jitters and excitement.

Good luck!

 

 

The Best Summer Gourmet Grilling Option – Pizza!

I am the chef in the family. I use that term loosely as I’m related to an actual chef (my brother) and an extremely talented one at that. By chef, I mean…I’m the one who cooks all of the meals in the family, spends the time researching new dinner options and yes, experimenting.

Except, that is, when it comes to the grill.

I will be honest, that is typically my husband’s domain. Or, at least it was. This Summer, I have found myself a new skill – a simple one – grilling PIZZA. When I first partnered with Ristorante, I did what most people do….I put it in the oven and devoured it (sometimes by myself) in just a matter of minutes when it was ready, but I thought I would try something a little different this time.

Summer Grilling Pizza

Grilling.

And I’m here to tell you, it took so little time, the flavor was divine and as silly as it sounds, I was proud of myself for doing it and then enjoying the little Gourmet Summer oasis I created in my kitchen.

Watch the video for a quick tutorial.

As a recap: Heat your grill to 400 degrees. Keep the pizza frozen until you are ready to grill. Watch for the edges to turn crispy and the cheeses to begin to melt together. For me, full cook time was less than 10 minutes.

Voila! Gourmet Summer Grilled Pizza.

I hope you enjoy every second. Do let me know when you decide to try it….I can’t wait to hear what you think.

You can find these pizzas at your local supermarket. If they don’t currently sell Ristorante, you can put in a request with the store manager. If you enjoyed this post, follow Dr. Oekter on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more goodness.

Disclosure: I am excited to have partnered with Dr. Oetker USA LLC for this post and video. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared are mine and mine alone.

Simple Summer Makeup, Step-by-Step

During the summer everyone wants a little bit of ‘less-is-more’, am I right? Kids are out of school and yet all the responsibilities of being an adult (totally overrated!) are still there. So naturally we must let some things slide. One of them might be our personal care routine. Who has time, or who wants to take the time to apply a full face of makeup? Not this girl! Thankfully I’ve found some drug store products that will give you just enough to look nice without taking a ton of time and effort or having to wear a ton of makeup!

summer makeup products

All of these, except the MAC, were purchased at Target. Can I get an amen?! And the best MAC blush dupe is probably NYX Terra Cotta.

It’s probably best to start with a primer. Even if it’s an extra step, during the hot summer months this will keep your makeup from creasing throughout the day. I used Younique and I really love it. If you’re looking for a drugstore primer, try Rimmel Stay Matte primer.

I recently found this Pixi skin tint at Target when I asked the makeup lady there (they have makeup ladies now!) what was the best bet for nice coverage but really lightweight. This stuff is it. It’s water based and goes on very, very light, but it evens out your skin tone. Then you apply some Revlon Nearly Naked powder for just a tad bit more coverage and to help with any heat & humidity you might experience throughout the day.

If you want/need to, you can add some concealer. I’ve been suing Age Rewind by Maybelline and really like it. But if you’re in a hurry or don’t feel like it, just skip this step! You can blend it in with a cheap version of a beauty blender or leave it alone if you skipped that step.

I have been using blush that has a bronze tone to it which is perfect for summer. It adds a little color and removes any kind of contouring steps you might think you have to take. Instead, just use the bronze-blush and you kill two birds with one stone! Add some brown eye liner because it’s more natural than black and mascara and you’re good to go!

Here is the step-by-step:

simple summer makeup

I almost forgot to add that at the end you could add a fun bright lipstick because, well, it’s summer! If you’re not a lipstick kinda gal just add a tinted lip balm like Burt’s Bees for a little color with no effort.

There you have it! What do you think about this summer makeup routine? Easy enough, right? It’s pretty much been my daily for a while now. Hope you like it!

Football, Fashion and Fitness with the St. Louis Lady Rams

I sat on the beach watching my small people toss the football back and forth with my husband during our vacation last year and FINALLY decided I was tired of being a spectator. I have spent so many hours sitting and watching them play, confident that my un-athleticism had permanently delegated me to the sidelines, but at that moment, something shifted. It isn’t my family that has kept me out of play, but rather, my fear of getting in the game.

Knowing me as many of you do, it may be hard to believe that within 30 minutes – and with some one-on-one coaching that included ‘line your fingers up with the laces’ and ‘toss the football with your body, not just your arm’, I was able to throw a perfect spiral more than fifty feet…. That, for me, is impressive. But the magic comes with playing with my family and playing FOOTBALL with my family.
DelaneyBeachFootball2014

Add another 10 minutes and the small dude had full-body tackled me to the sand. I did ask to play, right?

I have long loved the game of football. I learned the sport by watching it with my dad as a little girl. My love of the game hasn’t waned as I have grown up. I am not a ‘watch-the-Super-Bowl-for-the-commercials-football-girl’. I truly enjoy the sport. And I understand the game.

Delaney Mom St. Louis Rams Sidelines

And I know there are other women just like me….who appreciate the sport, love their team, enjoy going to the games and truly supporting their team.

So, do the St. Louis Rams. That’s why they have the Lady Rams – an organization offering exclusive access to Rams Events, merchandise, and this year extra special gifts.

As you may know, my family was honored to work with the St. Louis Rams last year on their commercial campaign and it ranks as one of the greatest things we have ever done…not only supporting a team we love, but a shared experience as a family.

St. Louis Rams Defend Our Turf

St. Louis Rams Defend Our Turf Commercial

This year, I’m thrilled to be back working with the team again, but this time supporting women and football as an ambassador for the Lady Rams.

Here is what I love about the Lady Rams:

St. Louis Lady Rams

Team Support – joining the Lady Rams means being surrounded by other women who love the same team you do. Some know more about the game, the players, the history of the team….so know less. It is an opportunity to learn and enjoy the sport.

New Friends – the Lady Rams are made up or women of all ages, so it is a fantastic opportunity to meet others with a shared interest and develop new friendships.

Football, Fashion, Fitness, Fun! – So many of my favorite things all rolled in to one. The membership provides you VIP access to training camp (happening Sunday, August 9th and Lady Rams can bring a guest), a football Fashion Show, Girls Night out events and new this year, a ‘Picked 6’ gift box delivery that arrives every month including gifts and products from Lady Rams partners.

Membership for the entire season is only $40. (The ‘Picked 6’ boxes alone are worth the membership fee!) If you are a returning member, there is a 25% discount – just use the promo code LR2014.

And if you join, or have any questions before you do, let me know! I so want to watch for you at the events!

Disclosure: I’m proud to be partnering again with the St. Louis Rams and the Lady Rams for the 2015-2016 Season. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. 

 

 

Sleep Away Camp. I Survived.

Dear Sweet Camper~

We have survived.

Sleep Away camp ends tomorrow.

Ok, fine…Let’s just go right ahead and amend that. I have survived.

All reports indicate you are having a marvelous time. I’m the one sitting at my computer hitting refresh, refresh, refresh obsessively on the Camp website hoping to catch a glimpse of your sweet face. And then worrying about the intensity of the look on your face…. why aren’t you smiling? Are you having fun? Are you cold, wet, tired? Did I adequately prepare you for time away?

You’d think I had never been away from my family before. I’ve been trying to determine what is so different about this experience…this being on the ‘other side’. The biggest thing? Zero contact. When I travel, we talk, we Face Time, we Skype…even when I am out of the country.

This camp business is like being on the moon. I send you ‘bunk notes’ and in return I get nothing. Nada. Zip. Did my notes make you smile? Am I sending too many and you wish I’d just CHILL OUT? (no, I’m not sending 12 a day…I just do that in my head.)

Delaney Camp Ondessonk Rock Climbing

I am glad the Camp site does post pictures, but I admit, there are just too few of you. The first day, I almost jumped out of my chair with relief when I found you…. you and your group were rock wall climbing. I LOVED knowing that you were finally doing it….everything you’d talked about for months….you were at Camp and from what I could see, having fun with your friends. This made me happy and teary at the same time. When there were no pictures of you at all on Tuesday, I was advised by a more experienced Sleep Away Camp Mom to plan with you for next year….when you see that camera, you smile and give me a sign – that way I KNOW you are good, happy and having the time of your life.

Mid week, I heard from a camper friend who came home early (she did the half-week version) that you love it so much you are going to make Cooper come back with you next year. This is good for my heart – knowing you are having the fun you imagined.

Seeing a few more pictures of your beautiful freckled face has definitely helped as well.

Delaney Camp Ondessonk

Honestly…having other moms to guide me this week, to shoot me a message to say they ‘get it’, to remind me you are brave and ready for this and having the very best time….it has been good.

Delaney Camp Ondessonk Canoeing

But most of all, knowing that within 24 hours I get you back? And you are coming back with memories and stories, with a new sense of accomplishment and self confidence…..this makes my week of missing you all worth it.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

(Before She left for Camp…I wrote about this experience as a SheKnows Expertwhat and how to pack and how to prepare as a first time Sleep Away Camp mom…)