On Relaxing and Guilt (and why they don’t go together)


It is so easy to hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard. Trying to do it all can be a slippery slope, and one that often leaves little time for self care. The tricky part is, many women—especially mothers—tell me they feel guilty when they take time for themselves. Of course we shouldn’t feel this way, but that doesn’t mean the feelings don’t exist. One way to alleviate the guilt is to be sure we are spending our down time thoughtfully.

So how do we know if we are doing this? For me, it all comes down to how I feel afterward. Do I feel good/recharged/energized? Or even more drained?

This is the difference between actually relaxing and aimlessly passing time (aimless in a lazy way). After relaxing, we know we’ve done something good for ourselves, even if it has taken time away from our other responsibilities. We know it was time well spent. Absentmindedly flipping on the TV, pulling up Facebook or shopping haphazardly usually leads to a down, lethargic feeling. And likely that dreaded guilt.

Everyone recharges differently. But the important thing is that this time is used intentionally—maybe not always, but more often than not. This doesn’t have to mean extravagant trips to the spa, hours in hot yoga or deep conversations with friends. Sometimes a pile of magazines and a cozy bed is all it takes. Or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend. Simple pleasures are often the best.

How do you relax?

Wintertime Skin Favorites

Even in our part of sunny Florida, we still get our bursts of winter weather. Like many people, my skin is pretty sensitive to the combination of cold air outside and really warm air inside. The tricky part is choosing products that nourish our skin without harming our health. Here are the non-toxic products I rely on during the cold months:


FACE: In addition to my normal evening routine, one to two times per week I use Beautycounter’s Nourishing Cleansing Balm as an overnight mask. Although not the product’s primary purpose, it is a wonderful use for it. Before bed, I apply a light layer all over my face and wake up super moisturized. It feels so amazingly luxurious too.

LIPS: I use a few things on my lips. For day time, SPF is still really important, so I use the totally wonderful Hurraw SPF lip balm. For night, Beautycounter’s calendula lip conditioner is fantastic.

NOSE: Does your nose get a bit runny in the winter even without a cold? Mine does. To avoid the dreaded rudolph look (happens to me so easily), I apply this organic shea butter to bottom of my nose at night when needed. Sounds strange and silly, but it clears up the redness and tenderness by morning!

HANDS: Nothing like a good hand cream. This one is brand new from Beautycounter and totally amazing. Apply throughout the day! [NOTE: this item is so popular it is temporarily out of stock! I’ll let you know when it returns!]

BODY: It depends on what kind of mood I am in, but for scented body oil, I use Beautycounter’s Lustro Body Oil in Rosemary + Citrus. For unscented, I use 365 organic refined coconut oil. After the shower is the best time to do this.

FEET: Shea butter to the rescue again here. I slather it on and then put on socks. [cue sexy music]

So nothing earth shattering here, but it is nice to know there are great non-toxic options available. Maybe one of these will come in handy for you!


Let’s Not Have It All

camellia copy

I am pretty confident that I don’t want it all. I have a feeling you might not want it all either.

I’ve talked before about the power of editing, and here is a terrific quote I just came across by the authors of Rework,

“Be a curator. You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. … it’s the stuff you leave out that matters.”

So, so true. All and more are not the answers.

If we really have it all, that means our homes are packed to the gills with stuff that someone else deemed worthy. And if we do it all, we might not be honoring how we actually want to spend our time.

Perhaps this is simplifying things a bit, but I think you know what I mean.

This year, maybe we can aim for something different—not less and not more, but right for me. If we ask ourselves with every purchase and every commitment, “is this really right for me and my family?” I think our lives will start to lead us down a beautiful path.

Right for me means identifying and embracing what brings us joy. And perhaps letting go of the rest.

Maybe this means backing off some commitments or cleaning out a closet or two. Maybe we need more time outside or maybe more time on the phone with our best friend who lives across the country. Whether we need more or less of something can only be determined by our own circumstances. But certainly it should be what’s right for us and what brings us joy—not what some magazine (or blog!) says we should be doing with our lives.

Happy 2015. Let’s make it a great year.

Photo by me. One of the first blooms from my new japonica. Nothing like a big, bright white flower on a gray winter day.

Finding Peace While Seeking Simplicity

looking at the trees in paris

There have been a rash of articles lately about the pressure on parents, particularly mothers. I won’t rehash their arguments (or whether I agree), but I do feel they have some fair points. Which got me thinking, “is this simplifying thing just another way for mothers compete?” And then I thought how silly that sounded because that would be the exact opposite of simplifying. And then again, I remembered we are all human.

Here’s the thing. Simplifying should not something else to worry about. Simplifying, at its best, is a solution to other problems … not a source of panic or guilt or obsession on its own.

No good deed goes unpunished, and anything can be criticized or made into a competition. For me, and I hope for you, simplifying won’t be seen as one more task to complete but rather a new way of viewing things. Stepping back. Taking a deep breath. Focusing on the things most important to us. And letting go of the rest.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, simple holiday season and a very happy new year.

Photo from traveling a few summers ago.

Getting Organized With … Ann Evans of Cypress Floral Design

Arranging flowers is one of my favorite aspects of entertaining at home, but there are many occasions when it is more appropriate to call in the pros. Lucky for Jacksonville, we have Ann Evans, owner of Cypress Floral Design. Ann is a beautiful person inside and out, and her flowers are equally stunning. I’ve worked with her on both personal and professional levels many times and she never fails to delight. In addition to designing numerous weddings throughout the South, Ann has created the floral designs for the Cummer Ball and the Art & Antiques Show. Knowing many people will be pulling out their vases during the next few weeks, I asked Ann to share her best organizing tips with us. Here she is:

Ann with a selection of her vase collection

What are the few, key vases everyone should own?
I’ll start with the vases you should not own and then suggest ones that you should.  There are a few factors  that go into choosing a great vase. The most important  is whether or not it can be easily cleaned! If the mouth of a vase is the size of a quarter and the vase is over 12″ tall, it is almost impossible to clean. Additionally, I prefer translucent or opaque vessels over clear ones because the water typically turns before the flowers. Also make sure the vessel is water-tight—you don’t want any leaky vases. To answer your question, besides water-tight translucent or opaque vessels,  I think everyone should own a set of really beautiful silver mint julep cups. They are versatile and can be dotted around the house or placed collectively on a dining room table mixed with votive candles. They are traditional and classic, but they take on the life of whatever flowers you put in them—from soft hydrangeas with mixed greenery to edgier deep red roses. Same vessel, different look.

shallow cabinets, perfect for storage vases

Do you have any tips for storing these delicate, sometimes bulky items?
You know that saying “if you can’t see it, it isn’t there”?—well, that’s how I feel about vase storage. I store my vases so that I can see nearly all of them at a glance. Some are stacked together with felt in between them for protection, but I know they are there. I also have a lot of stainless steel wire racks. I often suggest clients put these racks in their garages or utility closets for storing vases (as well as many other items). It is amazing how much they hold and everything remains visible. Another idea is to have a carpenter shorten the depth of a cabinet by putting a wood panel inside—this makes for shallow shelves and allows easy access to vases. Then you can put valuable or seasonal items behind the panel and out of the way.

In terms of vases or floral supplies, what do you see too much of in people’s home?
I see too many unused vases! If you never use it, take it to goodwill, recycle it or have a garage sale.

Are there any tools that really make life easier for you that we should consider using?
I just bought a pair of Corona snippers at Philips Garden Store and I love them! They are really tough and sharp but not bulky. They cut everything from woody hydrangea stems to soft tulips. I highly recommend them.

Ann Evans - floral 2a bridal bouquet by Ann Evans

How do you stay organized before really big events?
Lists! I have checklists for every event. Always typed and printed. I have terrible handwriting and creating lists on my phone or iPad doesn’t seem real to me. I list every piece and part of every floral creation and tablescape I design. Then I check off every supply and each completed design.

Ann Evans - floral 1table and flowers by Ann Evans

What are some simple tips for keeping more fresh flowers around the house?
Call me! Ha :) I love designing flowers for people whether it be on occasion or each week—but I completely understand if you see some beautiful blooms at the grocery store and want to brighten up your home. Go for it! Flowers are such a treat. Just be sure to give the stems a fresh cut and put them in water immediately.

A Simple Addition for Cold Nights

woolino sleep sack

Colder nights mean layering up at our house. Even with the heat blasting, our daughter’s nursery is still cold at night. Wanting to keep her in natural fibers (sorry, fleece!), it took some researching to find the right solution. I discovered the Woolino Four Season Sleep Bag and so far we are loving it.

I finally landed on this particular sleep sack for a few reasons:
– 100% natural Australian merino wool inner lining and GOTS certified organic cotton outer (the wool was key).
– No flame retardants (because this is sleep-ware, many companies still put flame retardant chemicals on their sleep sacks.)
– Machine washable (It washes well. I hung it to dry.)
– Easy to snap on. It also has a zipper for nighttime diaper changes.
– The material is extremely soft and comfortable—far softer than I expected.
– Certainly least important, but there are several nice colors to choose from (we got the beige, shown above).

I started by purchasing the 2-4 year size since our daughter is just shy of two years and taller for her age. However, it was comically large. I exchanged it for the 2 months-2 years size and it is perfect, with room to grow (although it might be far too long for a two month old). I imagine by the time she outgrows it, she will be old enough to have blankets in bed.

On really cold nights, we dress her in two sets of long cotton pjs, two pairs of socks plus this sleep sack and never hear a peep.

[EDIT: For more of my baby product suggestions, visit my new web site Naturally Safe Home, and also follow me on Instagram @NaturallySafeHome]

My Evening Skin Care Routine

I’ve talked before about my morning skin care routine, so I thought I’d share the products I use in the evening. Before buying any products, I always research it on EWG’s Skin Deep database to be sure it is completely non-toxic (I try to only buy products rated 0-2, which is the least toxic).

This probably looks like a lot of work, but I spend less than 4-5 minutes doing all of this. For me, it is a nightly ritual where I get to slow down, take care of myself, and prepare for bed, so I enjoy making this small extra effort. This is the order I do things:


1. Beautycounter Routine Cream Cleanser. This gentle face wash really removes make up while soothing my skin. I love it because it doesn’t burn my eyes when I wash off my eye make up. It also moisturizes as it cleans, which I love for my dry skin. The subtle scent is really nice, too. I often use it in conjunction with my Clarisonic Mia (11.), which is a cult favorite for good reason! (EWG 2)

2. Beautycounter Rosewater Uplifting Spray. I love using toner as part of my routine. It helps prep the skin so it better absorbs any additional products applied. The subtle rose scent is a bonus. (EWG 1)

3. Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. It might seem funny to include toothpaste in a skin care routine, but I find it is vital to let products soak in before moving on to the next, so I use this time to brush my teeth. It makes the whole routine more efficient. (EWG 1)

4. Aura Cacia Organic Tea Tree Oil. If I have any blemishes, I apply a tiny bit of tea tree oil at this point. Just add a few drops to a q-tip and apply where needed. Fluctuating hormones of pregnancy get me every time! (EWG 1)

5. Countertime Radiance Firming Complex. I’m a major fan of this serum. It fights fine lines and discoloration, and I have definitely seen an improvement in both areas. My skin is more “glow-y” as someone told me—super nice to hear after a long night with a sick baby! To me, the best part about it is that it is still non-toxic. All of the other serums I have come across that are effective contain harsh ingredients, which I am not willing to use (especially while pregnant and/or breastfeeding). And a little bit goes a long way with this stuff. Definitely my favorite item out of everything. (EWG 2)

6. Countertime Vibrant Eye Perfector. I’ve loved this eye cream for a while. For someone who has dark circles with or without sleep, I really appreciate a product that solves that for me while still being safe. A must for me. (EWG 1)

7. Glide Floss. Next up I floss my teeth while the serum and eye cream absorb. I tried using Tom’s floss but it felt like flossing with shoelaces—it was just too thick. So I am not sure Glide floss is the purest out there, but it does a great job. I can’t go to sleep without flossing. [EDIT: Glide is not as safe as I thought! Now we use Radius floss! Much safer!]

8. Acure Organics Argan Oil. I use argan oil in place of a moisturizer. It has almost no scent, goes on smoothly and absorbs quickly. This goes on once the serum has soaked in. In really cold months, I use a heavier night cream, but for now this works. (EWG 0)

9. Raw Organic Shea Butter. I use this for my lips and it moisturizes throughout the night. It is hard when you first get it out of the jar, so you’ll have to rub it in to soften it. It only takes a moment, and it has been incredible for my lips. It is also great for hands and cuticles. (EWG 0)

10. California Baby Organic Body Oil. I often take showers at night, and if so, I apply this baby oil after. I find it moisturizes more intensely than lotion alone. (EWG 1) (This isn’t the exact body oil I use, but the one I am finishing up is discontinued, and I will be buying this brand when I need a new bottle).

Many of the products here are from Beautycounter, a brand I have been passionate about for a long time. With a mission focused on extreme safety, Beautycounter’s products are not only effective, but they are completely non-toxic. After using and raving about this brand for many months, I decided to become a consultant. I am very proud to be working with Beautycounter and sharing their message that all products on the marketplace should be safe. I used every product listed here before becoming a consultant (except for the Rosewater), so I can tell you without bias how effective each of these are. In fact, it is only because I thought the products were so incredible that I got involved on an official level. If you’d like to learn more about why I love it so much, please don’t hesitate to ask.

This routine of course evolves through the seasons and as my skin changes, but for now, this is what works for me. My top priority is to use the safest products on the market that also get the job done, and I feel like I’ve finally found those very things.