Thursday, December 18, 2014

No Elf For My Shelf..

Unless you've been living under a rock or go by the name of Rip Van Winkle, then surely you've heard of the Elf on the Shelf. It seems you cant scroll through any social media feed without coming across a ton of different elves set up in precarious scenarios. This creepy  popular child's toy has been sweeping the nation since 2005 and left a trail of tired parents along the way. Since the boys are getting older and dealing with some outside influences, I wanted to get a head start and figure out whether or not this was something we would have to deal with. So I decided to weigh the possible pros and cons in order to get a better idea, this is what I was able to come up with.

Apparently, this Elf was created by a very well meaning pair of sisters who have fond memories of a lovable little elf their mother lovingly told them was there to keep an eye on them for Santa. Much like anything that goes mainstream, it evolves. In this case, the Elf comes once a year to keep a watchful eye on little boys and girls, he hides in new and creative spaces each day and returns to the North Pole to report back on the children's daily behavior. But not before wreaking some sort of havoc and leaving a mess behind (a mess created by parents only to be cleaned up by parents). This had me wondering who this fad is serving more, the parents or their children? 

Has this trend become another competition among parents? Another way to keep up with the Joneses? Why does it seem everyone wants to be the Griswold's nowadays? More added pressure during already demanding / exhausting holiday festivities? I think the moral of the Griswold Family Christmas movies has been lost along the way. It was the focus on family and the simplicity of the season that sustained them. They were lost in all the madness and the chaos of the holiday dealing with societal pressures and living up to unrealistic expectations. We've made a real effort of taking things slow this season and only committing to events that we absolutely don't want to miss while playing everything by ear. Feeling comfortable with saying no to anything that's going to add pressure or take away from our family time, and relishing in the moment. Doing less with more presence was the goal and I'm proud that we've stuck to our guns thus far and haven't fallen victim to fitting EVERY holiday themed activity on our calendar simply for the sake of doing it all.

I kept coming across stories of tired parents jolting out of bed at 3 am only to remember they never moved the elf, the pressures of having to come up with new and mischievous scenarios to invent for their elf. Only to have to get up early the next morning and clean up said mischief. I can't be the only parent who would be stressed out by this. I've even heard tales of children being distraught by their elves having to leave when the season is over, the last thing I want Christmas morning is two screaming toddlers unable to enjoy their gifts.

Aside from the parental commitment and any stress it may bring, or the blatant hypocrisy with this fiendish elf sent here to monitor all of your behavior while exhibiting terrible behavior of his own, there are other issues I have with this elf. Like the fact that it's used as a disciplinary tool to coerce children to behave accordingly. Lets talk behaviorism people.. Behaviorism with a friendly face is still behaviorism, and many of its effects will still be the same.

Behaviorism is an approach to psychology that combines different elements. Behaviorism is primarily concerned with observable behavior as opposed to internal events like thinking or feeling. It's a worldview that operates on a principle of "stimulus response". In other words, you are your behavior.
Let's just say I'm not a fan.

Alfie Kohn
I've spent a good part of this year reading up on all of Alfie Kohn's research on behaviorism and human response. Some of his work includes "Unconditional Parenting", "Beyond Discipline" and "Punished By Rewards". The latter being one of my favorites. Tying rewards to a child's behavior is a confusing and vicious cycle. Moving forward children may only be responsive to, or require rewards. If the parent is convinced it's unrealistic to expect children to do what they're supposed to in the absence of an incentive, then what are the children supposed to think of themselves? By providing a reward for certain behavior, it makes good behavior seem like a means to an end, in fact it makes the reward the end, not the behavior. Let's give kids a little credit. I want my boys to do what is right because they are supposed to, because it's the right thing to do and lastly because they want to do it.

"The belief that we can offer rewards to jump start a behavior and then simply fade them out presumes, that the effects of rewards do not carry over beyond acquisition into later occurrences of the activity in question, and do not transfer to related but different activities. There is no reason to believe that there is anything self contained about the effects of a reinforcement regimen. -Barry Schwartz

This isn't to say that once you reward a child you will ALWAYS have to provide a reward, but you cannot remove the reward system without a consequence. "You cannot put a couch in a room, then remove it without having changed the room."

The problem with the elf is that it is an unclear threat. Rewards that are contingent upon a required behavior defeats the very purpose it wishes to serve. The more you want what is being dangled in front of you, the more you resent what you have to do to get it. When we are repeatedly offered extrinsic motivators (toys, candy, screen time, food, bribes of all natures) we come to find the task or behavior less appealing in itself than we did before.

Therefore, with our intrinsic motivation having been "shelfed by the elf", we are less likely to engage in this activity unless offered an inducement for doing so. Some may suggest that the elf just serves as a reminder for children to make the right decisions themselves putting the power in their hands. This still does not solve the problem, because the desired behavior is still framed as a pre-requisite for -an obstacle to- getting the reward. Whether the reward is given by the adults or the child is allowed to reward themselves doesn't change the fact that the introduction of the reward in the first place changes the very frame in which we place the behavior. 

A very wise woman by the name of Susan Caruso, Founder of Sunflower Creative Arts, once told me - and it has been my mantra in parenting- that when something isn't working, flowing or just plain doesn't feel right. You can change the frame in which you view it, it has the ability to change the situation itself. The problem does not result from the application of reinforcements; it resides at the very core of extrinsic motivation. 

It is important to refrain from rewarding children for engaging in an activity or behavior that we would like them to find intrinsically motivating. Being patient, kind, compassionate and caring are alll qualities I want my children to possess because it feels right. NOT because there's a prize / reward / incentive behind it. If so, then what are we setting them up to believe? That all good deeds should be recognized, rewarded or praised? Rewards serve as a shortcut, it clearly changes the reason for doing something immediately. "Extrinsic motivators are most dangerous when offered for things we want children to want to do." In fact, research shows that extrinsic motivators nearly always reduce creativity.

Rewards can stifle creativity for both the child and for the parent / teacher / manager. Making it an easy out for the child to get what they are looking for and easily becoming a crutch for the parent, a vicious cycle indeed. It can be applied in all aspects of your life. Dangling a carrot in front of a persons face doesn't awaken anything but a sense of urgency to "Get That Carrot." Denying the intrinsic motivation and satisfaction only allows for the extrinsic needs to become stronger. Children's want / need list becomes bigger and more demanding, creating a monster. Children can develop stronger extrinsic needs as a substitute for more basic unsatisfied needs. We see this all the time in demanding "tweens."

Rewards don't work on tasks of particularly low interest either. For instance, growing up I despised math, it was my worst subject. I just couldn't understand it. All my life I dealt with educators who used every reward in the book, from gold stars to special priveleges and even candy! This never worked, for years I was insecure about math as it progressively got harder and harder for me. It took one teacher (Mr. Brown, if you're out there YOU ROCK!) I'll never forget what he taught me. He taught math in a way that made it both interesting and attainable. His creativity in making scenarios fun and informative opened up new doors for me. It did wonders for my self confidence and at the end of the semester I was in love with Algebra. There were no frills no thrills, just an understanding of what needed to be done and a willingness to find a creative way to get there together. 

Needless to say we have decided to pass on this Elf and all that he brings. I hate to make it all sound so dim, especially seeing as how the creators of this elf were trying to introduce a simple toy without batteries or flashing lights to adopt different traditions for each family (and it has for many families) but it just isn't the right fit for me and my family. It's a shame that it has been used as a conduit for mainstream "parent-centered" discipline and pop behaviorism. However, in my research I have been able to find some pretty uplifting and creative ways for families to put a positive spin on this mischievous elf if you have already started on this path and would like to switch gears, or if you have children begging for Santa's very own spy. For more on this click here.

Sorry Elf!

Essentially Yours,


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kids Relief - Homeopathic Medicine

I recently had the pleasure of attending the USA launch of HomeoLab's Kids Relief Homeopathic Medicine. I take an all natural approach to healing, as natural as possible. I tend to rely on essential oils (in case you haven't heard) as the first line of defense or preventative maintenance. This works pretty well for me. My boys have been healthier this past season than ever before. My oldest was prone to ear infections, he had six episodes last year alone and the doctors were considering putting tubes in his ears. This year he hasn't had any and I attribute it to the preventative care with essential oils.

However, there are times when germs and/or bacteria find a way and prevail. In these instances I lean more on Homeopathic Medicine before I turn to any synthetic over the counter medications, just my preference. The homeopathic route usually only includes the inactive ingredients keeping it as "natural" as possible as far as over the counter medication is concerned.

So when I heard that HomeoLab was launching their Real Relief / Kids Relief line for the whole family in the United States I was intrigued. Michele Boisvert, the President / Owner of HomeoCan / HomeoLab, and winner of the Trailblazer Award started the company in Montreal, Quebec. It was the first woman-owned business in Quebec at the time. Since 1987 they have offered more than 200 prime quality natural products in homeopathy, phytotherapy, oligotherapy and aromatherapy. All products are manufactured in strict accordance with Health Canada and FDA regulations and guidelines.

They recently opened an office right here in Boca Raton, FL for their latest USA launch of the company and its products. They started out with Kids Relief and have recently expanded into adult healthcare. Providing a plethora of different homeopathy for adults from "Calm Remedy", to PMS / Menopause assistance and Adult Arnica Gel / Cream.

They have offices right in Coconut Creek, Florida and Michele is a Palm Beach County resident. She started out as a pharmacist in Quebec with a passion for homeopathy. She eventually closed her pharmacy and opened a manufacturing plant. The United States manufacturing plant is now located in New Jersey.

The beauty in Homeopathic Medicine is that there is no fear of overdose, it doesn't work that way due to all of the inactive ingredients. I've personally experienced this when my oldest son got his hands on a handful of teething tablets. Fearing I would need to have his stomach pumped or call Poison Control I checked the label first which had instructed me to call the hotline. The gentleman on the other line assured me no harm could come from his digesting these homeopathic tablets and set this frantic mommy at ease.

Another added bonus to using Kids Relief is that it offers relief for ALL ages. The age requirements on all of their products have recently been upgraded to 0-9 years of age! Most moms know that if you have a toddler with a cough you cannot find cough medicine for children under 6 years of age. This is incredibly frustrating, especially if you are watching your child suffer. The all inclusive age limits on Kids Relief is a major selling point for me, not to mention the yummy taste. I've tasted the cold/flu remedy myself and it was pretty good! You can find the entire Relief product line at your local CVS, Walgreens or local health food store.

If you would like more information on HomeoLab's Adult / Kids Relief you can visit their website.

Essentially Yours,


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spotlight On Noni's Eclectic Shop

Today's Etsy small business spotlight is on Noni's Eclectic Shop. I first fell in love with this shop for their beautiful aromatherapy diffuser earrings. These beautiful handmade coppertone bead and clay earrings are great at carrying just enough of my favorite scent on the go all day long while staying fashionable.

I loved them so much I wore them in my family photo shoot!

There is so much more to this shop though, it is truly an artist's dream! No shortage of creativity here, there is plenty to keep my hippie soul mesmerized, from paintings to jewelry. She has an awesome collection of aromatherapy diffuser necklaces and bracelets for children as well! This is perfect for the cold / flu season, I plan on adding OnGuard for my little guys to help keep their immune system nice and strong this year.
How cute are these??
Cheryl Ward, the Visual Artist behind this creative space has been gracious enough to extend a coupon to all of my readers. Enter code ERIKA10 at checkout for 10% off any order. That's not all! Cheryl has also provided a beautiful pair of purple HEARTS & ANGEL Aromatherapy diffuser earrings as a giveaway to one lucky winner. The raffle will begin today and end on Friday, December 19th. This makes a wonderful Christmas gift for the aromatherapy lover in your life!

Good Luck!

You can also find Noni's Eclectic Shop on Facebook  and on Pinterest, you should definitely go check it out!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Essentially Yours,


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Spotlight On Lebanon Woodworking

With my essential oil obsession at an all time high, I'm starting to venture deeper into the "oil community" and learn more about this lifestyle. I came across this great woodworking shop by the name of Lebanon Woodworking on Etsy recently and fell in love the essential oil display shelves.

I love my oils and all that they add to the quality of our family life, I've felt for some time now that I would like to display them differently at home and during essential oil classes and booths. I teach a monthly Essential Oils Education 101 class at The Salt Suite Delray, and it can get a little "busy" with oils spread across the product table. Our next class is January 29th and I can't wait to show off this quality display case!

I'm absolutely in love with the workmanship! It's incredibly sturdy, there are no rough edges and its so lightweight and easy to manage. Gong vertical on my product table allows for more space and less clutter. Daniel Pawlak, the talent behind this premium woodwork is a formally trained architect and in his own words: "Enjoys translating ideas into constructed objects." Daniel, a family man who first made each product offered in his shop for his family first, is no stranger to custom fitting a shelf to suit your personal needs. His shop is unique, he offers products that "grow with his family."

Rumor has it, he's begun offering some Waldorf inspired wooden toys in his shop, I can't wait to check them out! Daniel's experience is extensive and has created beds, tables, baby toys and much more. Daniel has been kind enough to offer all of my readers a $5 off code for any $40 purchase in his Etsy shop with coupon code OILSHELF5.

I am definitely a fan! I look forward to following his shop and watching it evolve!

Essentially Yours,


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DIY: The Perfect Baby Shower Gift Basket

Baby showers, we’ve all been to one. I’ve planned some, and even had one of my own. We never had one for my little guy because they were so close together (15 months apart), it felt downright rude to expect a bunch of family & friends to gather again so soon and shower us with gifts... Again. Also, we didn’t need anything! I learned something after my first rodeo, most registries look exactly the same. Something you may have learned as well, a lot of that stuff isn’t necessary. I found myself surrounded by friends and family suggesting tons of different registry “must-haves.” Yet it’s filled with stuff you either don’t need right away, or will mostly likely not work and never be used anyway.

It seems the moment you get pregnant everyone has advice for you, but that’s another post for another day.

I found that every time I went to a baby shower I wasn’t sure what to get for the mom-to-be. After learning about the true necessities in early motherhood, I vowed never again to shower someone with useless items whether it’s on their registry or not. There’s no need to feel confined to only buying from the registry by the way. Most of the awesome gifts I received and could not live without, were not on my registry.  So when one of our beloved friends announced they were expecting, I couldn’t wait to shower them with all the pearls of wisdom from my experience. Perhaps that’s what was happening when I was receiving tons of advice, I suppose motherhood is much like anything else, a very personal experience. No two situations are exactly alike. I digress.

So I decided to put together a DIY Baby Shower Basket of my own! One that reflected all of the basic necessities and thoughtful gestures I wish I had been privy to in my pregnancy.

Now, these are all ideas that can be used as a single gift for someone who you may not know very well, or as a whole basket for close friends or family that you love.
Either way –  these items are thoughtful and functional all at once! They are perfect gifts for the experienced “Crunchy” mom in your life, or the mom who is interested in a more natural approach to parenting but not quite sure where / how to get started.

Diapers: Let’s be honest, who doesn’t need diapers? This is ALWAYS a welcomed gift, in fact it’s even requested on some invitations! I’m a cloth diaper advocate, no secret about that if you’ve read my Cloth Diaper Confessional. Cloth diapers are an awesome gift to give, but not quite functional for the mom who doesn't know how to put them to use. So in this case there are alternatives – Biodegradable Diapers! It's the next best option next to traditional disposable diapers. The Honest Company has gift bundles online that you can purchase in monthly increments. Obviously the more you buy the better the price. In this case I was able to provide a month’s worth of these stylish diapers with wipes. Indeed, this is gift enough for most showers. If you’re interested in “upping the ante”, then keep reading!

Baby Wrap: I'm pretty passionate about baby wearing, I wish I knew more about it when my oldest was born. I had an Ergo carrier and loved it, although even with the newborn insert it didn't quite fit right until he was at least 5-6 months old. For this reason wraps work great for smaller babies. The benefits of baby wearing have long been studied and there is plenty of research pointing to the positive hormonal effects it has as well as the increase in lactation for the mother. The Solly Baby Wrap has long been on my radar as one of the most stylish and comfortable baby wraps around. Their adorable patterns and soft lightweight material make it perfect for South Florida weather.

Nursing Cover: A good nursing scarf is a great gift for the breastfeeding mom. The Nuroo Baby scarf is by far the most innovative and stylish scarf I've come across to date. It's unique  snap enclosures allow for multiple ways to wear this and make it optimal for discreet nursing in public. 

Maternity/Newborn Photo Session: What better way to celebrate a new bundle of joy than giving the gift of memories. A Maternity or Newborn photo session is on the "to do" list for most new parents these days. The miracle of pregnancy and the celebration of life is something we want to look back on and remember with detail. For this basket the highly talented Jennifer Reina Photography offers a unique baby shower gift certificate good for one maternity or newborn session. She presents it beautifully in a complimentary picture frame with details on scheduling and a free print. This is a wonderful gift for anyone who is expecting.

Photo Props: It doesn't hurt to throw in an adorable little striped crochet elf hat to include in their newborn shoot. Couldn't help myself!

Blankie Pillow: This cuddle pillow was featured in my MOABS Recap, and for good reason! If your babies suffer from acid reflux or silent reflux, then you know what a necessity a pillow like Blankie Pillow is. This comfortable pillow is ideal for propping baby up after feeding to avoid any spit up. It also converts into a toddler pillow as your baby grows! I wish I had one of these in my early days of motherhood! It comes stuffed in this awesome little sack. As a rule I pass this one along to all expecting mommy's I know!

Onesies: What new mom doesn't need onesies? These aren't just any onesies, The Little Boss has the cutest selection of newborn / infant and toddler necessities for your new "little boss in training".

Rattle: This montessori inspired hand crafted wooden baby rattle from Essential Montessori is an awesome addition to this basket. Baby's first rattle is sealed with a custom beeswax/olive oil blend and tinted with all natural homemade dye that's safe to the touch. Perfect for baby's first grip and safe for teething.

Baby Moccasins: These are just plain adorable! Although they do serve a purpose as they are great for keeping those teeny toes clean and comfy while they take their first steps. They are also thin and very natural to the touch  so as to keep babies feet firmly planted on the ground.

Gift Cards: Gift Certificates to be redeemed at a later date are an awesome shower gift for expecting parents. It gives them a gift to be excited about after the baby has arrived. In this case I presented them with a gift certificate to Budsies, one of my new favorite companies. I first featured this company in my Ultimate Mom's Night Out article, for their ability to foster creativity and bring it to life. They will print a physical doll from your baby's first drawings!

Protection: Once the baby arrives, there will be no shortage of well meaning family members wanting to come and meet the newest addition to the family. Unfortunately, they bring with them a host of germs, allergens or any outside carcinogens that are picked up by the average adult in every day life. However, the new little bundle is not yet equipped to fight off such pathogens. The Kuddle Coat is the perfect gift for the overprotective parents or germophobe in your life! It keeps any harmful chemicals or harsh perfumes from coming in direct contact with the adorable bundle of joy.

Relief: I first learned about Motherlove all natural organic salve with my second son. This absolutely saved my life! It really helps aid in healing and is completely safe for ingestion so there is no need to wash in between nursing.

Books: Books are a wonderful gift for any occasion, especially baby showers! This particular shower requested a book on the invitation, this is a growing trend. It's a great way to get a good start on a wide reading selection and encourage a love for reading. You can never start reading to your children too soon, I started at about 3 months old and I have two boys who would rather sit and listen to me read a book than watch television. I first got this idea from my friend and fellow blogger Lindsay from You Are The Roots, she bought this book for her son Ethan and decided to have all the teachers he has over the years sign the book at the end of each term. This way he has wonderful memories to look back on highlighting his educational career and how far he's come. It's a sweet tradition and makes for an amazing gift!

I decided to deliver these gifts in a canvas basket instead of gift bags or wrapping the presents separately, ensuring they could also use as storage or a baby hamper. I hope that this DIY Gift Basket has given you some helpful suggestions on some functional necessities for a new "mommy-in-training." It sure made this mom to be happy!

Essentially Yours,


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The "No-Toy" Gift Guide

It's that time of year again, a time when everyone is shopping, buying and giving. Door buster sales, extended mall hours and gift sets galore. In the blogging world, this means gift guides, lots of em'! Gift guides are very helpful if that's what you're in the market for. But what about families like mine who prefer presence over presents? So I decided to create my own guide, for parents like me who work hard all year long fighting off childhood consumerism or exposing our children to the pigeon holes of mainstream media. The "Non-Gift Guide" if you will.

If you've read about out our Totschool / Playroom and taken the tour, or seen the feature on Modern Boca Mom, then you know that electronic or plastic battery operated devices are not on our must-have list any time soon.

Fact: The average child gets about seven hours of screen time a day and an average of only one hour outside.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know we fully support "Being vs. Buying". Holidays are different for many families and this is how we choose to celebrate. This year we've decided to plan a fun family Christmas trip in lieu of shopping for a ton of toys. We will still have a few open ended toys for the boys to open Christmas morning, but the focus is on spending connected time with each other.

Growing up, Christmas in my home was an extravaganza. Although it was enjoyable and filled with magic and wonder, it was the time spent with family that keeps me laughing still. The memories we created surpass any toy I ever received, and I don't remember specific gifts, but I remember special years spent with those I love. My family respects our decisions. However, they don't always know how to handle these gift giving situations during birthdays or holidays. If you know a family like ours, then this is the guide for you! So here you have it, the first "Non-Gift" Gift Guide of the holiday. A way to acknowledge the holiday without contributing to profit driven toy company madness, or sabotaging the hard work of many conscious parents.

Donations: Donating to a favorite charity for the activist in your life e.g., "Save the Bees" or "Mercy for Animals",  either in their name or in memory of someone they love dearly, is a win on all  levels. It shows you care about what they are passionate about and it helps to make a difference. Planting / Dedication of a tree on behalf of someone else is also a touching gift, and it's for a wonderful cause. 

Supplies: We do a lot of crafting! Limiting screen time in our home, means more time for getting creative. We are always in need of more supplies. Items like paint, chalk, paper, glitter and glue are always appreciated and put to good use.

Tuition / Classes/ Memberships: Our boys are Seedlings at Sunflower Creative Arts, their classes support hands-on experiences in Play, Nature and the Arts that are absolutely essential for healthy human development. A gift toward tuition or donation towards any of their classes or operating costs ensures our kids can keep enjoying all they have to offer.

Michaels craft store has crafting classes for older children, a paid registration for any of their classes is a thoughtful gift for the budding artist or future crafter. Musikgarten, a music class for babies and toddlers is generally offered at the Boca Raton Childrens Museum and is a great gift for babies and moms alike.

Memberships: We frequent our local museum's all year long, especially in the hot summer months. The Boynton Schoolhouse Museum and the Boca Art Museum offer wonderful family memberships at affordable prices. Yearly memberships are a great gift for everyone and ensures a year of fun for the whole family. A gift that keeps on giving!

Gift Cards: Ahhh yes, the stepchild of gifts. The almighty gift card, it has a bad reputation. The gift that says, "I don't really know you" or "I don't really care enough to stroll the aisles searching for just the right gift". Bahum-bug! A gift card can be an incredibly thoughtful gift! What could be more personal than providing a family the opportunity to dine together at their favorite restaurant? Perhaps a restaurant that they wouldn't otherwise spring for? I hear The Farmers Table has incredible cuisine that takes "fresh" to the next level. I can't wait to try it!

Tickets / Events: Last but not least, why not give the gift of  entertainment? You can search all the local events coming to your city this year and buy tickets in advance as gifts to concerts and shows, providing a family with a fun night out. The Mizner Park Amphitheatre has an awesome list of performances lined up for after the New Year!

Tickets to local Food and Art Festivals are another great gift, and an awesome way of giving a family a guaranteed day of fun and food! What could be better than that? In these demanding times family fun days can be hard to come by due to busy schedules or lack of funds. You may be able to provide a family with a well deserved break or a reason to make the time and get connected.

As you can see there seems to be a recurring theme to this gift guide. It's all about reconnecting and continuing to build on what really matters, this and all times of the year, family. Spending time creating memories with those you love, and perhaps getting to know those you don't know. Giving the most precious gift of all, your time.

Happy Holidays!

Essentially Yours,


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Becoming A Part of the Paper Culture...

It's December! 

Tis' the season for holiday card madness! Over the years I've tried it all, from DIY photo sessions to hiring a professional. I've tried online printing AND printing photo cards myself. They each have their benefits of course, it's a matter of preference. I enjoy photography and coming up with unique themes for different photo shoots, and the quality in going with a professional company is wonderful. These days I seem to be so busy I decided to go with online printing once again. In doing my research this year, I came across a jewel!

Paper Culture is an online printing company that offers unique & modern eco stationery using only 100 percent post consumer recycled papers generated with renewable energy. With standard premium quality paper at 130lb, double and triple thick upgraded options and free pre-purchase design assistance, they are a tough deal to beat. Prices are very affordable and they will even mail the cards for you with FREE addressing return and recipient printing! 

Here's the kicker... are you ready?
For every purchase made through Paper Culture they will plant a tree in your name, you can even dedicate the tree in someone's honor.
Like all companies Paper Culture has a carbon footprint as a result of operations. But, unlike other companies, Paper Culture offsets it's carbon footprint through carbon credits in partnership with

Fact: One lush, mature tree can produce enough oxygen in a single season for ten people.

Their Cards to Trees Program which launched on Earth Day 2010, is targeted to plant one million trees by the year 2020. This Certified California Green Business isn't winner of the Climate Leader Award for nothing!

Stationery making an impact that embodies a strong message of sustainability. Now that just makes my hippie heart happy!

(Photo credit:

May this holiday season smile gently upon you and yours, and may the new year bring you peace and joy...

Essentially Yours,


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Spotlight on Seed Essentials!

Photo credit: Seed Essentials

With my busy schedule I need all the calming and soothing effects that come with essential oils this season. I carry my oils with me in custom oil carriers, but I've recently discovered essential oil infused jewelry. The clouds parted and the Aromatherapy Gods gifted us with this lovely invention!

Enter Seed Essentials

This online Etsy shop has an array of beautifully crafted bracelets that include a personal "on the go" handmade white porcelain bead diffuser. She had me at hello.

These handmade bracelets are created with the finest crystals and made to order. They even come with a complimentary sample of essential oil. Rebeccah, a stay at home mom and the creative wonder behind these beauties has been gracious enough to offer a discount code to all of my readers! Enter coupon code ESSENTIALLY15 for 15% off any item in her shop through December 15th. She is seriously talented, there are some beautiful pieces on there. I plan on ordering a few for some of the oil lovers in my life this holiday season.

If you'd like to learn more about Seed Essentials you can visit their Facebook Page or check them out on Instagram to follow all of their awesome deals!

I am loving their "Color Outside the Lines" bracelet, it goes with everything! It also just happens to compliment the rest of my jewelry. I just love the soothing aromatherapy it provides me on the go!

Essentially Yours,


Monday, December 1, 2014

Homemade Holidays: Thanksgiving

The turkey is all carved, the pie is all eaten. We've all filled our bellies with sweet potato and our hearts with love. Hopefully you've all spent the holiday enjoying family and friends, and not stuck indoors chasing a sale. 

This was the 10th Thanksgiving we've hosted with our family. I started the year we were married and I love having my family over to celebrate food, fun and a lot of laughs. As you can imagine, I've  tweaked recipe's and "attack plans" over the years. I've stumbled upon some time saving hints that have helped to make our feast a more enjoyable one. So I decided to compile a list of all the different tips and share them all with you!

First let me start by saying I have finally phased out any processed, canned, or boxed aspects of the Thanksgiving dinner. So if you're like me and did not grow up this way but have a desire to find a better way, keep reading! Yes it was all made from scratch, it was all organic and most of it was all locally grown. Despite what you may think it is not harder to cook everything from scratch, and it was not more expensive. I actually found that it was more cost effective and not only simpler with all of the schedule adjustments I've made, but also much more enjoyable. 

You see, cooking everything from scratch provided my family more of an opportunity to spend time together and create more memories. As always my little sous chef enjoyed joining me in the kitchen and pitching in to bring it all together. It's a great lesson for the boys as well as myself. They learn early on what it takes to help something this big come together and I learn patience, lots of it! Besides I may be biased, but these were my best potatoes to date! I can't help but think of all the smiles and love that was shared while being mashed each time I took a bite,I'm getting ahead of myself...

Even a toddler can get excited about this!
It all started with this wonderful bounty from one of our favorite local farms (more on that another time). We were lucky enough to really clean up; purchasing raw milk, all the potatoes we needed for mashing, turnips, herbs, pumpkin and even farm fresh eggs. This experience alone gets the excitement going. There's something about rummaging and picking all the different produce you need to bring a meal together that really adds to the anticipation of the food. It's no secret that I feel a lot of people in this country are so disconnected from the food they eat, this is an integral part to cooking and nurturing a love for cooking. It's also a direct connection to eating healthier whole foods. I enjoy fostering that connection in my boys and showing them how food is grown and all that goes into cultivating a harvest. They love chasing the chickens and feeding the cows while we are there, it's a win/win!

So once I had most of my ingredients for all of my homemade recipe's, I decided to put together a schedule of all of the items that could be made ahead of time. Seeing as how I have one oven it took some pretty strategic planning on my part, but I've finally perfected the schedule! 

  • Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving is when I scour the local farms for the fresh produce and dairy. 
  • Monday I lay out my game plan and get all of my bake ware assembled, then I match up who will be hosting which dish.

  • Tuesday I spring into action and start with the Mashed Potatoes, boiling and mashing to my hearts content. I season and add some cold slices of butter and put into the freezer, taking it out on Turkey Day and thawing throughout the morning before heading into the stove. I figured out a few years back that it tastes exactly the same, if not BETTER! I usually start to cut up the bread for stuffing on Tuesday as well, seeing as how it needs a bit of time to get nice and crispy. This is also when I bake some of my pumpkin pies or pumpkin cheesecake (I hand them out to neighbors every year, so I make an average of six pies) and refrigerate them. This was my first Thanksgiving with Darla my Kitchen Aid Pro Series stand mixer (yes I named her) and what a difference! This is definitely on my list of must-have kitchen accessories!
    Mmmmm... Pumpkin!
  • Turkey: Tuesday is also when I start the brining process. I started doing this about 5 years ago and have never looked back! I do what is called a dry brine, I'm just not a big fan of the wet brine, it's preference really. The Dry Brine allows the bird to take in all of the yummy spicy herb goodness and the result is one juicy and flavorful bird! I wrap this baby up with the rest of them and toss it on into the fridge. Side Note: I buy fresh turkeys from a local farm so it is not frozen. Again, this is my preference. If you haven't tried this instead of the hormone injected frozen turkeys that sat on an ice truck for a week, then be my guest. I promise you will fall in love!
  • Wednesday I make sure my bread is ready, if not I will toss it in the oven for a few minutes to get it all nice and crispy. I proceed with chopping all of the fresh herbs and sauteing the sausage and veggies, once all mixed and I've taken more than my fair share of "taste tests" I cover it and off to the freezer it goes! Bam, two down! 
Fresh herbs are key to great stuffing!
I switch gears and start in on the Cranberry sauce. No canned jelly for me, this is fresh and flavorful! I like my cranberry sauce room temperature so popping it in the fridge when I'm done and taking it out the day of to rest on the counter until serving time is perfect and simple.

Once these sides are complete I start preparing the dough for my homemade dinner rolls. These pull apart rolls are perfect for dipping in gravy and fun to make with your little ones. I start this process on Wednesday night because the dough needs time to rise, so I make the most of the evening and let it be all night long.

I try to make the most of my evening by snapping the ends off of my green beans for the casserole while enjoying a glass of wine with the hubby.

Seeing as how most of the sides are complete and only need to be thrown into the oven, there's no need for an early call time with me and the bird. I'm free to snuggle with the family for a while and enjoy breakfast.

  • Thursday I wash the brine off of the turkey and rub a little something extra on my not-so-feathered friend and pop him/her into the oven!

If I tell you, I have to kill you...
Once he's in, I'm free to watch the parade and go on and on about how wonderful the weather is in New York and how its eighty degrees in South Florida. Yada yada.

Don't you love blanching greens? I do!
I finish mixing everything for the green bean casserole and get ready to roll some dough!
This is where the fun is at!
My boys are big fans of homemade play dough, so they were right at home helping me roll the dough into little balls and putting them in muffin tins.

I set them on the warm counter next to the oven and continue to let them rise until just before popping them in the oven  to get golden brown and buttery... Mmmm.

This is usually where I go into "craft-mode" and start setting the table (although I think I am going to try that on Wednesday night next year). There's no need for the homemade holiday to stop in the kitchen! I'll admit it I'm a sucker for a beautiful tablescape. I love it even more if it's crafty on the fly. We don't have fancy dinners often, so I like to really do it up for holidays. We normally don't use paper plates or plastic-ware, but on Thanksgiving it especially seems like a crime! I couldn't disrespect the bird! 
The pine cones were gathered on a nature walk and tied with twine around the napkins.
The devil is in the details and I enjoy the simplicity of using what you have.

Once the table is set and the bird is resting safely, it's time to start popping all the sides in the oven to get warm and bubbly. This is usually where I scurry around looking for something decent to wear and slap on some mascara. Once the sides are finished and the gravy is bubbling we perform the "cattle call". 

After we each say a little something about what we are most thankful for, it's time to eat, drink and be merry!

I hope this schedule will help you to enjoy more time with your family, perhaps even come up with your own schedule. It has helped me to provide a natural and homemade meal for my family on Thanksgiving and I hope it can do the same if not encourage you to find your own way. I've recently started working again and this schedule allowed me to continue creating the meal I have for years without compromising it due to lack of time. That's the beauty of utilizing your week, it makes this homemade holiday accessible for everyone. 

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

Essentially Yours,