It’s So S’well

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swell-bottles

Recently my hair stylist and knower of all the coolest and latest things, Tera Rae Stephens, was sipping her water at the salon out of the most fabulous looking water bottle. I asked where she got it and she exclaimed, “You don’t know about S’well bottles?!?!” And she went on to profess how it was the BEST water bottle ever and said, “Jen you NEED one!”

So I went and ordered one for myself for Valentine’s Day and give it to my husband to wrap up. We’re really romantic like that. But hey, it was the BEST gift ever! I carry my S’well bottle everywhere!

Why the S’well is SO Swell   

1. They come in 3 sizes: 9 oz, 17 oz + 25 oz. I bought myself the 25 oz and LOVE it. I keep it in the car, take to the gym, basically my S’well goes wherever I do.  (Fun fact: It also holds a bottle of chardonnay and will keep chilled for 24 hours. Just sayin’.)

2. It has a screw on top that DOES NOT LEAK. I can’t tell you how many water bottles I have cycled through over the years and had to end up tossing them because of leakage issues. This one doesn’t.

3. They keep cold beverages cold, like ice cold, for 24 hours and hot beverages hot for up to 12 hours.

4. Feel good fact: S’well is a charitable parter of organizations like Unicef donating money to fund clean water for children who need it.

They are not cheap, but you will get your money’s worth, I promise.

And on the note of other things SWELL, Tera just opened her own salon in the newly renovated areas of Lido Marina Village called TReSs Apothecary + Salon. Gals, it is amazing. She is working on carrying the S’well bottles in her retail section, so if you are local, pop in and check out her fabulous new space. Also be sure to follow @tressapothocary on Instagram for some amazing eye candy.

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Our Central Coast California Mission Trip

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My oldest is in 4th grade, the year kids do a California mission project, so I made it MY mission to research the best California missions to visit with kids so we could make it a family mission trip to see one. We ended up visiting La Purisima Mission in Lompoc and had the MOST fun on our little 3-night Central Coast California mission road trip so I wanted to share our experience for any families looking for great California mission trips for kids.

la purisima mission

Day One:  Orange County to La Purisima Mission

We left on Sunday morning and make it to La Purisima Mission in about 4 hours.

La Purisima Mission is open from 9am – 5pm every day with the exception of a few holidays and special history days. Free guided tours are conducted every day at 1:00pm.   Free self-guided tours are welcome during open hours.  Parking was $6.

Tip -> Check out library books on the mission before your trip!

It’s fun to be able to have a little history and back story on the mission before you arrive so you can fully appreciate getting to see some of the things you read about in person.

la purisima mission tour

Tip -> Take the La Purisima Free Guided Tour at 1:00pm!

The guided tour starts at the Visitors Center.  Online it says it is 60 – 90 minutes, but ours was a full two hours. Our tour guide was very thorough and let the kids (and adults) do cool things like ring the mission bell.  La Purisima is the only California mission that allows this!

The tour guide shared so much information that we would not have gotten on a self-guided tour.  Highly recommend.

La Purisima Mission Grounds

La Purisima is the most historically restored missions of all the California missions and its beauty took my breath away. It’s out in the middle of farm land, so visitors can get an authentic feel for what it would have been like to live there in the 1800’s.  For kids, I think this was such a great mission to visit for this reason.

When we walked into the original church and mission rooms, the old wood and architecture gave me the chills. I drool over farmhouse style home design and reclaimed wood so to see ceilings like this in its paint-chipped antique splendor was for me, one of the highlights.

la purisima architecture

la purisima mission church

Each year in the fall they also hold special Candlelight tours where visitors can go at night and experience the mission by candlelight and step back in time to experience the smells and sounds of mission life. I have to do this one year.

The tour was fabulous and the setting made it a perfect place to learn about La Purisma’s history by actually being able to walk through each and every space of the mission. It was the PERFECT California mission to visit with kids.

I was so excited about La Purisima I wanted to do my own Mom Mission Report, thus the need for this blog!

Solvang for Dinner 

That afternoon we backtracked into Solvang for dinner, about a 25 minute drive from Lompoc.  I hadn’t been to Solvang since I was about 20 years old, and it has changed a LOT. I remember being being a really kitschy town with lots of windmills.  The windmills are still there, but the town has turned incredibly charming with lots of twinkle lights strung at night and lots of dining options. Definitely a fun outing with the family.

We went casual and ate at the Solvang Brewing Company.

solvang

Where to Stay in Lompoc

Our final destination was Pismo Beach, but since it had been a long day driving up and then touring, we decided to stay the night in downtown Lompoc. What’s in Lompoc you might ask? Not much. But I did find the O’Cairns Inn & Suites which was highly reviewed on Trip Advisor and a very pleasant surprise! Rooms were clean and comfy and price couldn’t be beat (especially with the added AAA discount).  They also include free sodas, waters, snacks, movies, popcorn, two adult drinks per night per guest and a full made to order cooked breakfast.

Bonus – > The family-friendly bar also had foosball, pool, shuffle board and karaoke. Classic.

Day Two: Lompoc to Pismo Beach 

After our full free breakfast at O’Cairns we hit the road to make it to Pismo, about a 50 minute drive North.  We were too early to check in at the hotel, so we visited the Avila Valley Barn where we found lots of animals to feed and pet, a darling country store, fresh corn on the cob hot off the grill and hay rides for $1. Cute, and inexpensive outing.

avila valley barn

Where to Stay in Pismo Beach with Kids

After lots of internet searching and after getting a personal recommendation from a friend who visits Pismo a lot, we decided to stay at the SeaCrest Oceanfront hotel.  Smack dab on the ocean cliffs with a stunning view.

We decided to pay a little more and book a family suite which included one room with a King bed and a separate room with two twin beds, its own TV and a door that shuts.  For a family of four it was perfection. This was the view from our patio with the girls picnicking under the shade of the palm tree.

seacrest pismo beach

Even better we got a room on the ground floor and had a patio that opened up to a huge grassy area in front of the pool. Girls ran around on that grass and played for HOURS while we sat on the porch and watched them.  The SeaCrest has steps down to the beach right on the property, so we also enjoyed some afternoon beach time on an 85 degree February day.

That night we walked (a little over 1/2 mile) to have dinner at Giuseppe’s Pismo Beach. Good family-friendly Italian food with awesome service.

pismo beach

Day Three: Pismo Beach + San Luis Obispo 

The next morning after a yummy (included) continental breakfast at the hotel, we took a walk on the beach. The girls found ELEVEN whole sand dollars which to them was pretty awesome seeing that we have never been able to find a whole one in OC. Thrilling.

Next we visited the Pismo Beach Monach Butterfly Grove, where you can walk around and look at the Monarchs.  Girls were not super enthralled with this outing, but I thought it was cool! Then we walked from the butterflies down to the beach where you can get closer to see the sand dunes.  The beach is stunning. This is one of my favorite photos of the girls from the trip.

girlsintree2 San Luis Obispo is a short drive from Pismo so we decided to go into town and see Mission San Luis Obispo and grab some lunch.

Downtown San Luis Obispo is a really cute college town and the Mission is right in the middle of the action.  This mission was completely night and day different from Lompoc given its location in town and it felt more like a museum. It was cool to experience both since they were so different.

mission san luis obispo

In town, we had lunch at Splash Cafe. Hands down the BEST clam chowder I have ever had. There’s also one on the main strip in Pismo Beach.  The clam chowder is a must experience if visiting Pismo or San Luis.

It was such a fun trip. I hope you might get to experience this area of California with your family sometime too!

Please comment below if you have taken your family on a California mission trip and where you went.  I am slightly obsessed with them now. I might want to visit all 21.

family California mission trip

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Odysseo Debuts in Irvine

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Disclosure: Media tickets provided to facilitate this review. 

logo-odysseo

If any of you drive along the 405 and 133 intersection, you can’t miss the Big White Top under construction for the last month.

Every time we drive by, my boys are fascinated with “what they are building?!” When signs went up, we were thrilled to see it was Odysseo by Cavalia! For those of you not familiar, this show is known as the world’s largest traveling production with a cast of 65 horses, trainers, musicians and acrobats that produce one TRULY magical experience.

It is the work of Artistic Director, Normand Latourelle, a pioneer with Cirque du Soleil, and an incredible team of set designers, musicians, choreographers and costume designers.  Click here for more info on Odysseo Orange County.

dualriders

Photo credit: Odysseo

I simply love horses.  Their grace, power, strength and pure beauty are really inspiring to me.  When I heard I had the chance to see this show with my family I was ecstatic.

I went in thinking the show would be, of course, a horse show (and it is!) but also SO much more. The performers interact with the horses in various acts that run the gamut. Some are exciting and fast, doing simply unbelievable acrobatics, and then some acts were beautiful and soft.

It was breathtaking to watch one trainer lead nine horses in choreographed formations around the arena with no leads or bridles.  Just gentle commands and a lot of praise.  Their connection to these horses (which have to train as long as SIX years to be in this production!) is seriously awe-inspiring and their true gratitude and love for these majestic animals really shines through.

Click here for some direct links to actual footage of the show for a preview of the magic…

horseacro

Photo credit: Odysseo

We took my son and a friend, who are both 6, and they REALLY loved it.  There was a mix of equestrian, aerial artists in rings and silks (my son’s favorite part of the show), acrobats and more. We were mesmerized for the entire show.

The run time start to finish was about 2 1/2 hours, which included a 30 minute intermission. The Big White top is surprisingly comfortable and climate-controlled – we were told it costs $10,000 to cool or heat the tent for each production.  Parking was super easy and organized and they have plenty of food, snacks (hello Dipping Dots?!) , beer and wine for sale inside the tent.

Here are the boys practicing their horse acrobatic skills…future performers maybe?!  This cracks me up :)

acrobat boys

Odysseo Orange County was able to extend their run of the show due to an overwhelming response in ticket sales. Shows run Tuesday through Sundays now  through. March 13th. Click here to find the calendar of show dates  and to purchase tickets.

  odysseo collage

Has anyone else been able to see this amazing show? Please comment below! Thank you Odysseo for a truly memorable experience.

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#RanchLB Romance Twitter Party!

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Disclosure: I am participating in a sponsored partnership with The Ranch at Laguna Beach. All enthusiasm regarding the below prizes is 100% authentically me. 

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a brand new resort secluded within a peaceful blend of canyon and sea, where guests get to stay off the beaten path while still experiencing all Laguna Beach has to offer.  Would you like to go? Yes?  Join the #RanchLB Romance Twitter Party for a chance to win some romantic prizes just in time for Valentine’s Day! Read on for how to join us…

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Are you ready to see what you could win next week? Can you imagine how fun it would to surprise your Sweetie with one of these prizes for Valentine’s Day? Let me share the The Ranch at Laguna Beach #RanchLB Romance Twitter Party prizes.

1-night romance package stay at The Ranch at Laguna Beach which includes a 1-night stay with couples massage and your choice of paddle boarding or golf  (3 prizes available)

Round of golf for two at The Ranch at Laguna Beach (1 prize available)

Dinner for two at The Ranch at Laguna Beach (1 prize available)

How to Be a Part of the#RanchLB Romance Twitter Party

1. Register for free to participate by clicking here. To be eligible to win, you must register and answer the questions correctly during the #RanchLB Twitter party!

2.  Hop on Twitter on Wednesday, 2/10/16 at 7:00pm sharp and follow the hashtag #RanchLB to join the party.

–> To be ahead of the game, follow The Ranch at Laguna Beach on Twitter now. And follow me!  I’m @TinyOrangesOC and will be partying with you along with sharing some of my favorite local Laguna hot spots.

3. Study ahead of time to have the answers to the questions prior to joining the party so you are ready to ROCK it and win one of those awesome prizes.

All answers can be found here on The Ranch at Laguna Beach website.

Questions:

– Name one of the charitable organizations that Chef Camron supports
– The Treehouse Romance Package @ranchlb includes a romantic chef-prepared dinner. How many courses is it?
– How many holes does Ben Brown’s golf course at The Ranch have?
– Name one of the items included in the romance kit as part of The Ranch Romance Package.
– Valentine’s Day is on Sunday. Which breakfast item at The Ranch is at the top of Jill Simonian’s list to celebrate?

For a complete run down of all the fun details of this party click here.

Have a great, beautiful weekend. It’s supposed to be crazy beautiful here in OC and I look forward to partying with you on Wednesday night!

xo

Jen

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Facing a Fear to Save Lives

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Facing Blood Donation Fear to Save Lives

Facing Blood Donation Fear to Save Lives

Was it Eleanor Roosevelt that said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”?

Well, last week I did something that has scared me for my entire life when I put on my big girl panties and donated blood for the very first time and I DID IT!!!  Man, does it feels good to conquer a fear!

Now that I know what to expect, next time will be easier, and for anyone who has feared donating blood, I am writing this post to share the real scoop on exactly how it works.  You too can do it! It’s really not that big of a deal. But first…

Why Is It Important to Donate Blood?

From www.redcrossblood.org:

* 1 pint of donated blood can save 3 lives
* Every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood
* Approximately 41,000 blood donations are needed every day
* 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer yearly, many will need blood sometimes daily, during chemotherapy
* A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood
* Donated blood has a shelf life, which is why continuous donations are needed

blooddrive Facing Blood Donation Fear: I Did It for Ben

This beautiful boy, Ben, lost his life last year at the tender age of 4-years-old to rare forms of leukemia.

Over the course of his treatment, he received over 50 blood transfusions as well as a bone marrow transplant from a donor that was a match in Germany.

Ben’s family goes to our elementary school. His passing affected our community deeply.

One of his mother’s friends organized an American Cross Blood Drive and Be the Match bone marrow registry collection at our local elementary school.

When I saw the flyer and heard about it, I knew this was my chance to face a lifelong fear, donating blood. I might not have been able to do it before, but I could deal with facing blood donation fear for Ben and for any people who might need my blood.

How to Donate Blood

First off, here is information eligibility. All good? Time to find a drive!

1. Find a Blood Drive Near You

It’s really easy and blood drives are going on every day. All you need to do is visit www.redcrossblood.org, then put in your zip code under “Find a Blood Drive” and you will see all the blood drives close to you.  Select the one you want, then make an appointment that is most convenient or drop in during operating hours.

2. Prep Your Bod for Blood Giving 

I was told it is important to eat a healthy meal beforehand, not too heavy or greasy, and drink an additional 16 oz of non-caffeinated fluids before as well. Also, pay attention to getting some iron-rich foods in your diet in the days before and get a good night’s sleep. You can find out more tips on how to prepare here.

3. Save Time with Rapid Pass 

The day of the blood collection ONLY (has to be the day of) visit www.redcrossblood.org/rapidpass and you can complete the health questionnaire online before going. You will also be fascinated with the types of questions you will be asked.

4. Show Up + Go Through Registration 

Bring your photo ID, list of any medications you are taking, and budget enough time for the whole donation process, which for me was about 1 hour 15 mins total.  You will first be given a little mini physical…temperature, blood pressure, etc. and they will take a prick of blood from your finger to test and make sure you are eligible to give.

5.  It’s “Go” Time

I told my registration lady that I wanted the very best, most experienced person to do the needle since it was my first time.  She told me OK, and matched me up with someone. Now I have no idea if this really was the best person, but psychologically it helped me to think so. Finally the moment arrived, and it was time for me to face my fear. I was led to a bed and laid down.

It’s so mental.

It took several minutes to prep everything, and then finally I was given a little foam block and told to squeeze.  It was go time. The needle went in, little pinch, and I was told just to relax and lightly squeeze the foam thing about every 5 seconds for the duration.

If you are squeamish, just don’t look. I actually closed my eyes for the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME. I didn’t look one time at anything. I just tried to think of other things.  In the future I would bring headphones and listen to music or listen to something distracting.  I took the time to pray and so some deep breathing and relaxation. I tried to keep my mind off of it.

Next thing I knew, the guy said, “You’re done!”

I was DONE?! That was it? I asked him how long it took to actually get my blood they needed, and it was 8 minutes.  Interesting. I asked him the average amount of time, and he said 7 – 12 minutes.  It’s quick!!!

6. After You Donate Blood 

I was told to just lay there for a few moments after, and then slowly sit up. They gave me a bottle of water and told me to drink all of it while I was sitting on the edge of the bed. I felt a little light headed, but nothing terrible. However, I thought I was OK to get up finally, but one of the nurses turned me right around and told me to go sit down for a little while longer.  I must not have been as ready as I thought. I probably sat on the edge of the table for about 15 minutes.

Afterwards I transitioned to the snack station where I drank another bottle of water and had some cookies. By the time I was ready to leave, I felt pretty good, and then I made sure to go home and eat a meal and drank extra water for the rest of the day.

They told me no alcohol for 24 hours and no lifting or vigorous exercise after, so plan accordingly.

The rest of the day I felt a little woozy and out of it, that’s the best way to describe it, but could carry on my normal afternoon activities. By evening I felt almost 100%.  Overall, I was FINE!!! And I DID IT!!!!!

I felt so blessed to be able to face this fear. More than that, I loved feeling like I was a part of something good that came out of something so tragic.  Ben and his legacy are saving lives and that is so incredibly powerful.  Here I am with his beautiful mom, Liz, what an amazing event to be a part of.

Are you interested in hosting a blood drive for your community? Click here to find out how. It’s easier than you think!

meandliz

 

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