Cox Smart Home at Canopy at Esencia

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post to spread the word about the Cox Smart Home and Amazon links in post are affiliate links.

Did you know that the average household connects six devices to the internet these days? We are talking phones, laptops, tablets, gaming systems, etc. and that number is expected to increase to 50, yes 50, devices by the year 2022.

I don’t  know about you, but my Wi-Fi can be S-L-O-W at times and it drives me crazy. Lots of spinning rainbow wheels and error pages on dropped web searches. Lagging Wi-Fi can also result in a very irritated 5th grader when it inhibits her from posting one of her fabulous videos on

With the need for internet connection and speed increasing and our tolerance for slow connection decreasing, Cox Communications and Warmington Residential are paving the way to the future of digital living at one of Orange County’s new master planned communities, Canopy at Esencia in Rancho Mission Viejo with gigabit-internet speed.

It’s the future people.  And it’s here.


This week I got to preview Cox Communications and Warmington Residential’s Cox Smart Home in Esencia where they have designed a modern living space to showcase all of the different ways families are going to be using technology in the future and all that is possible with gig-speed internet. The Cox Smart Home will be open this weekend to the public and I urge you to go  see it for yourself.

Cox Smart Home at Canopy at Esencia Powered by GIGABLAST Internet Speeds
Open to the public
Sat. 10/1/16 and Sun. 10/2/16 from 10am – 6pm
100 Vasto Street, Rancho Mission Viejo, CA 92694

For those of us that are not super techie, let me tell you what living the Gig Life means. Gigabit connectivity gives customers internet speed that is 100, yes 100, times faster than the average speeds offered today. Now that is what we call GIGABLAST!  Sign me up Cox!

With gigabit internet service you can run all your devices at the same time, download an HD movie in less than 60 seconds, upload 1,000 photos in about a minute, download 100 tunes in only 3 seconds, stream live video, do anything that requires heavy bandwidth, and do it at lightning speed.

My Top Five “That is So Cool!” Moments at the Cox Smart Home

I saw so many cool things in every room of the gorgeous three story home, my head was spinning with awe and the times I said, “That is so cool!” were countless. Please just go and see it for yourself because it was impossible to cover everything in this post so I will highlight some of my favorites.

1. Wemo Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Slow Cooker

It’s on Prime mamas, might as well just buy it now.

I didn’t know such a dreamy slow cooker even existed! With three heat settings you can control with your smart phone from wherever you are, you can adjust the temperatures or settings and never risk overcooking a dish again.

Here is fabulous flood blogger Whitney Bond demo-ing the cooker, powered by Gigablast.

Whitney’s tagline is “Traditional Recipes with a Bond Girl Twist.” Check her out, I adore her site. In fact, I am making her One Pot Italian Sausage Shells and Cheese dish tonight. YUM.


2. Amazon Echo and Philips Hue Smart Bulb

Echo is a hands-free speaker that connects to the Alexa Voice Service and can control things from playing music, reading books, looking up the weather, and even turn on thermostats and lights with compatible devices.  All you have to do is ask her. Do you guys have one yet? It’s on my birthday list. Honey, are you reading this? Honey?

For example, “Alexa, play me Justin Timberlake!” Done. “Alexa, turn on the light in the kid’s room.” Done. Feels very George Jetson, doesn’t it?

Just another device making our lives easier, powered by Gigablast.


3. Virtual Reality Gaming

Welcome to the future of gaming – virtual reality –  where you are not only playing a video game, you are immersed in it. Moms everywhere will be thrilled to learn this technology can also be educational, in a highly entertaining way.

At the Cox Smart Home, I got to meet two young men from Labcoat Studios, an app development company behind virtual reality games and experiences.  They were showcasing one of their virtual reality typing games to help develop keyboard skills.

It was so cool I was squealing with delight as I tried to burst the words with my mad typing skills. See the word “rain” on the screen? That word was coming towards me and I had to type it as fast as I could. SO fun.


4. House Calls of the Future

How many times have you sat there looking at your sick child and wondered if you should take them in to the doctor but dreaded the idea of getting them there?

The telehealth program at CHOC Children’s Hospital has a system that uses modern, digital, communication technologies changing the way patients are able to access care, remotely, 24 hours a day. With the use of the InTouch mobile robot, the technology enables secure, real-time connections between providers and patients.

The telemedicine field is rapidly growing so one day we will be able to see our doctor from the comfort of home, on your device, without leaving the house. Again, powered by Gigablast.

The doctor will see you now…


5. Distance Learning

With Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. there are so many opportunities to have face-to-face instruction by experts around the globe and the opportunities for education are endless.

At the event, I had the privilege to see the legendary violinist, Jason Yang (who has toured with Madonna!), demonstrating with the use of technology, how he can teach students and stream live seminars in high-definition to his students and fans internationally.

Just think of all the opportunities we will have for children to take music classes from amazing instructors anywhere without the need to chauffeur them. Once again, at speeds powered by Gigiblast.


You guys, please go and check out the Cox Smart Home this weekend with your families.  It will be such a fun outing and you will be in awe of all the amazing things available to residents when you have Gigablast internet service.

Some other amazing features you will get to see are a Wi-Fi BBQ smoker, Wi-Fi vacuum, Wi-Fi pet and pet feeder, Wi-Fi weighing scale, Wi-Fi drawing robot, Cox’s new, Voice Remote Contour TV system and more. (And you might even get the chance to WIN one!!) Go, just go!

About Esencia

Encompassing nearly 23,000 acres, Rancho Mission Viejo (The Ranch) is planned to provide multiple villages which could consist of up to 14,000 homes as well as sites for parks, playgrounds, trails, clubhouses, farms, schools, shopping and entertainment and more in beautiful South Orange County.

The community of Rancho Mission Viejo currently includes villages of Sendero (sold out homes) and Esencia (homes now available for purchase.)

The hillside village of Esencia is the second village on The Ranch and is planned to inlcude 2,810 residential units. For more information visit

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Things To Say to Someone in Grief

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Today I am writing about “things to say to someone in grief” because I am that someone.

I lost my mom in June, you can read about it here if you missed it. I never envisioned writing about Grief on my happy blog dedicated to sharing juicy ideas but to not write about Grief would be unauthentic because life isn’t always happy.

Losing my mom was my first great Loss, and Grief is new for me. When broken with pain life shifts. Please bear with me as I pave the way through it and navigate this new world.

Because I am my mother’s daughter, and she was the most positive person you ever would meet, I am consistently looking for the blessings and silver linings  and I hope this post might help someone at a loss of what to say to someone in grief.

When you have a friend or loved one living with Grief things can get awkward in face-to-face interactions. Especially the first time you see someone post Loss.

I have been that person, wanting to say the right thing, wanting to express myself in a way that is comforting but not really knowing what that is. But unless you have lived through this, you don’t really know. Therefore, lots of times people will not saying anything. So here are some ideas.

Things to Say to Someone in Grief 

If you have a feeling you want to say something, PLEASE DO! Worrying about what to say or if you should say something can be sensed and saying something is better than nothing.


If it is the first time seeing the person since their Loss, acknowledge it with a simple hug and “I’m so sorry for your Loss.” You will know quickly if the person wants to talk about it or brushes it off and changes the topic, but at least you acknowledged it and then you can move on.

And instead of a blanket, “How are YOU doing?” or “How is your dad?” get more specific and ask “How are you doing today?” or “How has this week gone for you?” or “How was your dad the last time you saw him?”

A general “how are you?” is hard to answer because there are no words to even describe how I am after losing a Great Love. It’s AWFUL. Horrible. Heart-wrenching. Painful. Lonely. It SUCKS beyond measure.

But not all of the time.

The truth is that some days and some moments are OK, some moments even better than OK.

If you ask how the person is doing today or this week, it allows them the freedom to say, “I am doing actually pretty good today!” Or, “Today is a bad day.”  Whatever the case, the question is not as overwhelming as the general “How are you?”

Other comforting things to say to someone in grief or crisis:

“There are no words. I’m so sorry.” Because there are no right words or magic words.
“I’m here for you.” Always nice to hear someone cares about you and is there for you.
“You are so strong.” I had a mom at school look at me, put her hand on her heart, and say, “You are so strong. So strong.” I realized it DOES take strength to carry on “normal life,”  so I really appreciated that. 

Thanks for being there with me and for me through this. If you have anything to add that have brought you comfort, or any other pieces of advice, PLEASE comment below.

So much love,

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Solution to the Lunch Box Stink

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Disclosure: Links are affiliate links 

Finally. A more smell proof lunch box. No need to brace yourself for impact when opening at the end of the day.

smell proof lunch box

I really hate bad smells. Which sounds funny, because I am sure everyone hates bad smells, but I am particularly sensitive to bad smells and they can make me crazy.

One of my top personal odor offenders, is the smell the girls’ lunch boxes get after the school year gets underway. You know what I am talking about, right moms, that stale, gross stink that seeps into the plastic lining?


The plastic really starts to retain the stink and no matter how thoroughly we wash it, the smell always returns.   Therefore, when I discovered these Under Armour lunch boxes that are lined with plastic, I thought they would be worth a try to see if the plastic helped make it a smell proof lunch box.

I guess the official word for the plastic is PEVA lining.There is a pocket on the interior lid for an ice pack and there is plenty of room for a thermos and your reusable lunch box containers.

smell proof lunch boxes-2

You can buy them here on Amazon ladies…..

Then go ahead and give it your own whiff test this year!

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The Ranch at Laguna Beach: All You Want to Know

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Complimentary stay provided to facilitate this The Ranch at Laguna Beach review and the property is a client of Tiny Oranges. 

The Ranch at Laguna Beach Review

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” ~ Emerson

It took me some time to let the magic of the luxury boutique hotel, The Ranch at Laguna Beach sink in.  As an Orange County native, I found it hard to believe this piece of land, nestled in between the Aliso and Wood Canyons, even existed. chair
We have driven by Aliso Beach thousands of times, but little did I know the charm to be found just on the other side of Coast Highway, where a different world of natural serenity awaits at a brand new Laguna Beach boutique hotel, unlike anything else to be found in all of Orange County.

It is quite simply, the coolest hotel in Laguna Beach.


The Ranch at Laguna Beach Review 

The Ranch at Laguna Beach has it all. So close to beaches, dining, hiking, activities…yet so far away from the hustle and bustle. It’s only 0.3 miles and an 8 minute walk from the sand, but once you enter the driveway, a secret spot of stunning Laguna Beach beauty waits for you to come on in, stay awhile and relax.

It was like being in another world.

The land is a part of Orange County history, and is home to Ben Brown’s Golf Course, a 9-hole golf course tucked in the canyon, founded in 1956. benbrowns
After the golf course was established many years ago, the owners of the property expanded to include a simple motel, a sort of destination stop off of Coast Highway.

But I am sure many of you Orange Countians didn’t even know there was a motel back in that canyon, I didn’t. ranchcar
That was all about to change when Mark Christy, owner of Hobie Sports and lifetime Laguna Beach resident got a group of investors together to purchase the inn with a vision to take the iconic property and make it into a luxury, ranch-style resort that embraces the feel and philosophy of Laguna Beach.


Keeping the exact footprint of the previous property, but brand new in every other aspect, The Ranch at Laguna Beach has been completely remodeled in quintessential coastal decor.

With a variety of room configurations to suit every guest’s individual needs The Ranch offers rooms, studio suites, one bedroom suites, two bedroom suites and even a luxe private treehouse!

Our family of four was hosted in one of their spacious two-bedroom cottages, which for a family, is sheer perfection. theranchcottagelivingroom

The cottage was so comfortable we felt as if we were home.

Our cottage included a dining table, kitchenette, half bathroom downstairs, huge living area with an attached patio waiting for you to come out and enjoy the view on a rocking chair.

The upstairs housed two separate bedrooms, one with a King bed and attached balcony, the second with queen sized bed, and a gorgeous bathroom in the middle. bathroom

All amenities are covered. Even some that are hard to find anywhere these days.

– Keurig coffee makers

– Microwave

– Fridge

– Cozy robes

– Daily paper delivery of your paper of choice

– Complimentary Wi-fi

– USB ports bedside

– Complimentary parking and valet

– And my personal favorite, NO ADDITIONAL RESORT FEE. Yes! 

The beds, dressed in fine Italian linens, were extremely comfortable and the black out shades and ability to close our bedroom doors and sleep separate from our kids was lovely.

The two-bedroom set-up allowed us all to sleep in.

Do you want a look at our two-bedroom cottage at The Ranch at Laguna Beach? Click on over here and view my 60-second tour of our room here on Instagram.


With a creek that runs through the property and to the ocean, the buildings of the ranch are tucked into the environment, blending in with their color and style to the landscape that surrounds.

Here is a photo of the private treehouse for rental. How cool would it be to rent this?! CREEK


The fresh saltwater pool, affectionately named The Pond, is completely refinished, retaining its original shape, and had a vintage charm about it. Here is one of my favorite shots early morning, as the marine layer was in the process of burning off… pool marine layer
Give my girls a hotel pool and they are happy campers.  When they realized a poor bar was open for beverages they begged me for a lemonade, but I said, “no” because mommy needed to save her money for mojitos.

They then shared they learned from other kids at the pool that they met that lemonades are FREE.

Free lemonade for kids at the pool? The Ranch, I love you.

pool through trees
With comfortable, cushioned lounge chairs and C-shaped side tables perfect for your beverages, kids can bounce between pool and jacuzzi while parents relax. cocktails

It is of course my responsibility to report back on important things like the cocktails at The Pond so I sampled some on your behalf. You’re welcome.

For the record, they were some of the very best I have EVER had. Too bad they weren’t free. Then again, that might have been a problem.

If you go, make sure you try one of their mojitos.


When construction is complete, The Ranch’s signature restaurant, Harvest, can be found in the main building with a bar and beautiful private dining room serving upscale California and American cuisine inspired by local flavors.

Until the main restaurant is open, guests can enjoy a full breakfast and lunch menu at the fabulous Harvest Patio in the most picturesque setting overlooking the golf course.

Dining with kids at The Harvest Patio was delightful. The tables, set under darling cafe-strung lights, was adjacent to a large, grassy lawn area where the kids could play cornhole and the girls could handstand and cartwheel to their hearts content. cornhole
Ben’s Pantry
, your coffee shop at The Ranch serves guests daily from 6:00am – 9:00pm where you can grab your morning cup of Joe, have an after golf beer or order a glass of a California coastal wine.

They also offer upscale grab-and-go sandwiches and snacks for the beach, golf or pool.  benspantry

The Harvest Patio breakfast was extraordinary.

If you are a local, make it a point to do breakfast there sometime soon and when you do, please order the Smoked Bourbon Bacon Cinnamon Roll to share.  Like the menu states, ‘Nuff said.

The Green Thumb green juice I ordered cancels out the cinnamon roll calories, right? cinnamonroll


Laguna is home to arguably some of the best beaches in all of California, and there is no better place to stay than at The Ranch for the convenient location to them all.

Simply call the front desk,tell them you are going to the beach, and a golf cart will arrive to pick you up and drop you off at Coast Highway with loaner towels, chairs or umbrellas as needed.

Aliso Beach is the most convenient, right across the highway, but if you want to visit any other beaches, you can take advantage of the free Laguna Beach trolley or simply order an Uber. ranchsign
The Ranch can also arrange a private surf or stand up paddle boarding lesson, of which my husband and I got to do for the first time while the girls were at the Junior Rangers program for the morning.

We got a brief lesson on the basics, then hit the water with our awesome instructor Mike.  Lots of tips and laughs later and we were hitting the harbor, and were able to make it 1 1/2 miles around the loop. SUPER FUN!

As a plus, I got to work off some of the cinnamon roll.



The kids’ program at The Ranch is called Junior Rangers and was such a welcome departure from the usual resort kid’s club activities because it was not only fun, but educational too!


Kids ages 5 – 12 can attend with prior reservations for an additional fee. Program runs 9am – 1pm and includes a camp tee, backpack, take home craft and lunch.

The girls got to make plaster animal prints, tour the organic garden in a golf cart, learn about the animals of the canyon, do science experiments, play games and have lunch with an enthusiastic staff.

When I asked their honest opinion after we picked them up they said,

“It was WAY more fun than I thought it would be!”

Which is a rave review coming from my borderline tween 10-year-old who can be somewhat hard to please!  Locals are also welcome to book a spot in the Junior Rangers program for anyone looking to fill any summer days prior to going back to school.


At check-in we received a sheet with times and activities going on during our stay and fun was to be found every day. From movie nights to nature talks to campfire songs with complimentary hot cocoa, The Ranch truly is dedicated to making sure you have endless opportunities to make family memories. storytime

We loved our stay.

There is something special about The Ranch and the feeling you have when you are there.  Maybe it’s the history or memories of a simpler time. Maybe it’s the chance to take a step off the busy highway of life for a few days and recharge in nature. Most of all, it was the time together to discover the property and experience a completely unique kind of vacation.


This photo below inspired the opening quote above.  At The Ranch you truly do live in the sunshine.  Thank you for giving us these memories.

We will be back.



Preview rooms are available now (beware there is some construction still going on and not all areas are quite complete), with grand opening coming soon. Follow The Ranch on social media for news of the opening. Find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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The Hardest Year

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Me and Mom on our last Mother’s Day together 2016

I wrote and rewrote this sentence so many times I am sick of thinking how to say this, so I am just going to say it because there is no good way:

My mom passed away at the end of June after a 10 month battle with pancreatic cancer at 68 years old.

Writing that my mom passed away still takes my breath away.

I started this post many times over the past month and wasn’t ready yet. Grief is a giant roller coaster. The previous drafts were written when I was at the bottom of the coaster.  Today happens to be a day when I am at the top so I figured this was a good day to get this post done.

My blogging was really put on hold as we took on her illness as a family. I am starting to realize now how much I want to be back here, writing, although I am not the same person I was a year ago.

The Story

I am going to be brief and to the fact.  Mom was diagnosed with Stage III (could have possibly been IV) pancreatic cancer last August. At the time of diagnosis, her tumor was advanced and inoperable. She underwent chemo for six months and the beginning went as good as it can for chemo. We were very blessed that she got five “good” months during treatment where we were able to spend as much time together as possible.

After six months of treatment, scans and blood tests confirmed the chemo had stopped working and the cancer had spread. She was supposed to start a new chemo regimen when the pain escalated so much she was admitted to the ER where tests confirmed she had a blocked bile duct due to the cancer and a stent had to be replaced to open it up.

After the surgeon got in there he could see what the cancer had done. It had spread, it was aggressive, it was invasive. Not only on her pancreas but was eating away at her intestine so much that her stomach couldn’t empty. She was in so much pain.

He told us the words you never want to hear. “I’m so sorry. There’s nothing else medically we can do. It’s time to call in hospice. Get her home and keep her comfortable.”  My dad asked how long she had left. “Days to weeks.”

Days to Weeks

She lived for 27 days at home with hospice support. My dad, sister and I were there with her every day. Being a part of the death process is mystical; it transcends human understanding. It was a sacred time, equal parts beauty and love mixed with extreme grief and overwhelming anxiety. The people who work with hospice are truly extraordinary human beings with a calling.

We surrounded her with love, conversation, laughter. We watched old movies together. My sister sang to her. We prayed. She fought to get every last second with us here on this earth. She was SUCH a fighter. To live for 27 days in the state she was in was nothing short of a miracle.  Although it was by far the hardest thing I have ever experienced, I will always treasure this time with her.

Life After

When she did finally pass we all had a sense of relief that she was finally released from her pain and the disease that destroyed her body.  We are Christians, so we have our faith and believe her spirit lives on in heaven with God and we will see her again. Having a spiritual belief and faith has been so important to our family during the most difficult time.

That doesn’t change the fact that there is a huge hole in our family and in our lives.  She was our beacon, the rock of our entire family.  Figuring out our roles and how to exist without your beacon is a process, and a painful one, but one we are learning, baby steps at a time.

We let almost seven weeks pass before having her Celebration of Life memorial service, which was last weekend, and it was an overwhelmingly beautiful event filled with so much love.

Preparing for the service over those weeks was incredibly hard, but turned out to be an important part of the grieving process for me.  It was so painful I found myself wondering how people DO this?

We decided to do a slide show and at first I couldn’t even stand to look at photos of her, it was so hard.  But the more I did, the more my eyes were opened to how HAPPY she was. How HAPPY our family was. How much time we spent together. How much LOVE we shared. These images of her…. healthy, vibrant, sparkly….these images started to replace the ones I had of her at the end when she was so very, very sick. It was a gift to remember all the happy images.

I also decided I wanted to speak at the service. My mom was so awesome I wanted to share her awesomeness as a mother with everyone.

Writing has always been cathartic for me, and going through the process of writing my eulogy was healing.  I sobbed and sobbed for weeks while working on it, but through the pain, I was able to recognize just how BLESSED I was she was my mother. How special and close our relationship was. How wonderful my memories were. I was able to find joy in my words. And as a bonus, I cried so much writing it that I was able to get up there and deliver it without one tear. I was able to speak with a sense of gratitude instead of grief.

What I Know for Sure

In the midst of the darkest days when you are most shattered with pain and grief, opportunities also arise to see beauty and light and I now know these things for sure….

Angels exist. They are the people God sends to take care of you and love you during the most difficult of times. People we knew who stepped up and showed up in such a way our hearts will be forever touched, and people we didn’t know yet who were there to help us through. From the moment she was diagnosed, people have been put in place all along the journey to see us through. We are on earth to love and care for each other.  There is no other time than in a crisis when you will see angels shine so brightly.

Grief is too much to take on alone. My dad, sister and I are all in individual counseling and my dad has been regularly attending a bereavement support group, to which there are no words for how grateful I am he is getting help and support. Feelings of grief are so intense and so overwhelming, you need the help of professionals to navigate the emotions and give you tools to help you heal.

There is no way around the grief, you have to move through it. I found myself saying, I wish I could just push a button and fast forward to next year.  I wish I didn’t have to live this upcoming year of “firsts.” You know, the first time I don’t call her to share which teachers my kids got, first time she misses my daughter’s soccer games and gymnastics meets, first birthday without her, first Thanksgiving, Christmas…the list goes on and on. It hurts. SO BADLY. But there is no short cut, this next year and likely the year after that are going to hurt, a lot. Some days hurt more than others. There is no recipe for getting through it, but you have to grieve. Some days hurt less than others, and some days it changes from moment to moment. My hope is for time to help heal.

Her spirit is with us. People have said they feel the presence of their loved one after they passed and I never knew exactly what they meant, but I do now. I have felt her presence with me and have seen signs that she is very pouring out her love on us and her spirit lives on. I am certain of this.

There is no time like the present. I don’t want to sound cliche… but each day with your loved ones is a gift! One year ago today we didn’t know my mom had cancer, today she is gone.  No one knows what the future holds so take the days when your loved ones are healthy and CELEBRATE. Tell people you love them, take lots of photos and videos of your loved ones, spend time with the people you love, heal stupid arguments or misunderstandings.  With the people that matter to you – live your life in such a way that you would feel like you had no regrets.

Pancreatic cancer sucks. It’s horrendous. It’s often detected too late and the five year survival rate is in the single digits. Unacceptable. My family will fight for progress for pancreatic cancer until there is a cure.  In honor of my mom’s legacy, we have set up a fundraiser in her memory to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. You can make a donation of any amount here – >

Please pray for me and my family. This is going to be a process for us all. I look back to getting back here more regularly. I miss you and I miss our community.  I will be back.  Once again, in baby steps, as we all adjust to our new normal.  So much love to you all….xoxoxo jen

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