For 2017

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Life

I’ve never been big on resolutions but this year I feel like it’s time to stop the resistance. In the past I’ve always felt, so what? New year or not, it’s just another day. Calendars and clocks are man-made creations to measure time, but without all this tracking we still exist – maybe even more intentionally when we shed these parameters to some extent and live freely in the present moment. Regardless of what the clock says, NOW is the best time to start that thing you’ve been thinking about, to make that call to connect, to do something that makes your soul feel good.

I still keep all that in mind. But I’m viewing the start of 2017 as more of an energy-cleansing. I’m grateful for the wonderful things that have happened this year but there have been some other not-so-pleasant remnants that I feel I need to shed, so this is me lighting a big batch of sage on fire and cleansing my life and home with it’s thick, billowy smoke.

My resolutions for 2017:

Wake up and stretch. I used to be very good about this, especially while pregnant: immediately when getting out of bed I’d do a quick sun salutation, a few cat/cow stretches and take a few deep breaths. This takes two minutes and helps me start the day feeling more grounded and less like a paranoid squirrel on steroids.

Its funny because I’ve been waiting for months to “find quiet time” to meditate, stretch, etc. since it’s always so loud and fast around here, but I’ve realized that it’s exactly in these moments that I need to stop drop and Zen. No one is ushering me into a peaceful room and rolling out a yoga mat for me while striking Tibetan bells and massaging my chakras. Ain’t happening. I think the real test is if you can breathe deep with a baby screaming at you for breakfast and a toddler begging you on an endless loop to color with her, and if so, you’ve reached a near expert level on the Buddha board.

Be more open. Shed the fear of judgment, fear of offending. Trust that the people who are here get me, and know my intentions. I think we do the world a major disservice if we all don’t let our light shine, so this year I’m grabbing the flashlight and letting it fly. I hope you do, too.

Put it out there. I have close to 200 drafts of works of writing that are just sitting in my virtual draft drawer, collecting dust. Some are unfinished because I am a stage 5 procrastinator, and others because of fear (see above). Since I have a tendency to get big ideas and start projects without closing others out, one of my goals is to finish what I start.

Nurture the relationships that matter. Someone very close to me recently gave me the gift of the following reminder: “You can’t be everything to everyone, so just be YOU to those you love”. Those words have stuck themselves to my heart.

Let go of what no longer serves me. I tend to hold onto things like feelings and clothing and other peoples’ energies – all sorts of junk that clutter my world. Only in these past couple months have I become pretty ruthless when getting rid of things I don’t need and don’t make me happy, curating my life. And let me tell you, it feels incredible. Donate, give away to a friend in need, recycle, upcycle, let it go, release the feeling, etc. I’ve borrowed the Konmari method here. I haven’t read the book but just the idea has changed my world. If it brings joy, it stays; if not, out it goes.

Hula hoop. Seriously. We have a Wii with a balance board that’s been collecting dust, one which allows you to stand on it and just hula hoop. It doesn’t even require an actual hula hoop. This is fun, makes me happy and tones my mid-section. Who can be mad or upset while hula hooping? You can’t. Try it. I could do it for hours. (Or until the baby wakes up from his nap.)

Make self-care a top priority. For me this simply means taking a nice bath once per week after the kids are in bed. I used to be much better about them but this past year all efforts of relaxing while cleansing have gone down the drain. I’m bringing it back. Candles, my favorite Pandora station, bath bombs and hot tea or wine is mandatory, as is having my journal next to me (because it never fails that inspiration hits when I’m not near my computer and my hands are covered in suds). I got myself this bath pillow so I’m more comfy, and now every time I go into my bathroom and see it and it acts as an invitation. After the bath, it’s almond oil for my skin.

A bath like this is really is a message from you to your body saying: I care about you. You deserve this. These baths are simple and inexpensive, take little effort, yet make all the difference.

Be OK with myself. You probably wouldn’t think “be more OK” to be an uplifting, inspiring resolution. The idea reminds me of those gag gift mugs that say things like “Most Okayest Dad Ever”, which makes me laugh. But the point of being OK is simply that: to be content with the knowledge that you are enough. That I am enough. Enough for my children, enough for my husband, enough for my friends and family. Enough for myself. I am a work in progress, as well all are, fluid and hopeful and flawed and ever-changing and forgiving. “Falling short” and “doing it wrong” are perceptions; roadblocks on the path to happiness. This year, I am striving to be okay with being “OK”.

Fail forward. If I could adopt one phrase to take with me in the New Year, it is this one: “fail forward”. I can’t remember where I first heard it but it was fairly recent and it’s stuck with me ever since. The failing is inevitable; it’s what we do with that failure that matters most. This is something I wish I understood sooner in life, but I’m happy I’ve adopted it now, and I’ve already started using it with Penelope. Failing is normal. Failing is good. Don’t feel shameful, or run and hide from the failure. On the contrary, welcome the failure. Then take it and use it as a springboard.

Take breaks. We don’t have our village, like many previous generations had. It’s a different time and a different world. I won’t get into all the reasons why this sucks, but I will say, that I’m grateful to have some pretty awesome friends around me who have become another layer of family. And we’ve reached a point where I know I can rely on them at the drop of a dime, who won’t judge me when I’m losing it and need a break, and who I don’t judge when it’s their turn. I will gladly pick up their kids or welcome their children at my doorstep so they can run an errand/take a drive/take a gym class/sit in a parking lot and bang their heads against the steering wheel until they feel better. I will not ask questions. I will have wine upon your return. Promise.

My sister doesn’t live near me full-time but she does live here part time, and when she offers to watch the kids, I immediately take her up. I used to feel bad about asking or accepting the help. Now she’s like “Hey I’m free this afternoon if you need me to watch-” and I’m like “KAYTHANKSBYE” while skidding out of the driveway. She gets time with her niece and nephew and I get to work and also take a mental break. Win/win. (And she also accepts payment in wine.)

These are my main goals for the New Year. But this list is not just about me. Yes, it’s good for me to do these things, but also I need to set this example for my kids. I can’t expect my daughter to care for herself and value herself if I don’t lead by example. I can’t expect to function on a healthy level to provide the kids everything they need. I can’t maintain a healthy relationship with my husband if we’re both stressed or occupied with work and kids and not taking care of ourselves. They deserve the best of me, and in order for them to get it I need to make sure I am well enough to give it.

If we each take care of ourselves it causes a ripple effect; we interact better, we care for each other better, we feel better, we live better.

To 2017.


Family-Friendly Vegetarian Recipe from What a Good Eater! Cookbook

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Life

Family-Friendly Vegetarian Recipe from What a Good Eater! Cookbook

Over at the What a Good Eater! project we are running a “Virtual Dinner Party”. This is really just a fancy way of saying we’ve rounded up our favorite bloggers, asked them to prepare a recipe from our What a Good Eater! cookbook, and blog about their experience.

The goal was for readers to have one week of fresh, delicious, healthy meals for your family–FULL RECIPES from breakfast to dinner will be shared. You’ll also discover several fantastic new bloggers. (You can see the post with the list of all the bloggers and the links to their posts, here.) 

Of course you are invited, and I think I’d be a bad host if I didn’t join the party and share a recipe here as well. I chose the “Greek Tempeh with Easy Tzaziki” recipe.

healthy toddler baby food recipe tempeh fingers with easy tzatziki

This one is a family favorite in our household; I’ve been making it since before we had kids, and now it’s one of Penelope and Ciro’s favorites too (Ciro especially, he goes nuts for this!). Since Ciro and I are dairy-free these days, I modify the yogurt by using unsweetened coconut yogurt instead. The consistency is a little different, but it’s a great alternative if you are dairy-free as well (full recipe below).

My Favorite Kitchen Products

Our Virtual Dinner Party is sponsored by two of our favorite kitchen products: Infinity Jars, and the Vidalia Chop Wizard.

Infinity Jars offers the largest selection of the world’s finest airtight ultraviolet glass jars and bottles and apothecary containers, designed to preserve the freshness of your herbs, spices, and natural products. (And they look super sleek on my counter top.) The Vidalia Chop Wizard is a tool that literally chops your prep time in half – I let Penelope help with this one, and she loves it. And the best part? No more tears when chopping onions!


Infinity Jar



Now! Onto the recipe…

The Recipe

Tempeh Fingers with Easy Tzatziki

Age: 10 months plus
Yields: approximately 24 pieces of tempeh
Food storage: refrigerator friendly
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

We love this recipe because it’s a powerhouse of nutrition from top to bottom. The main player in this dish is the tempeh, and if you’ve never cooked with it before, we believe you’ll find it so easy and tasty that this meal may become a weekly staple! Tempeh is an ancient food that is fermented, high in protein, low in sodium, and a great source of iron. It is made from soybeans.

In the marinade, we use coconut aminos, which contain an abundant source of 17 amino acids, minerals, and vitamins! The tempeh is served with a probiotic-packed Greek yogurt dipping sauce that is sure to encourage your little eater to “dippy dip!”

For the tempeh:

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons liquid coconut aminos
  • Squeeze of ½ a lemon, seeds removed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano (can replace with ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces tempeh, sliced horizontally into “fingers” about ¼-inch thick

For the yogurt sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (we substituted with unsweetened coconut yogurt)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh dill (can replace with ¼ teaspoon dried dill weed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the oil, coconut aminos, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl, and stir to combine. Add tempeh slices to the bowl, and gently mix with a spoon to coat all the pieces with the liquid. Marinate for 20 minutes.

Place yogurt and dill in a small bowl, and mix to combine.

Once marinated, arrange tempeh fingers in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet, and bake for 12­–15 minutes, or until the bottom side is lightly browned. Then gently turn each piece of tempeh over using a fork or pair of tongs, and bake for an additional 7–10 minutes or until the second side is lightly browned. Remove the tempeh from the oven and allow it to cool slightly so the pieces can be handled yet are still warm. (These can be served once fully cooled as well, if you prefer; no need to reheat leftovers tomorrow!)

Serve to baby, and let her dip the tempeh fingers into the yogurt sauce! Try serving this with a diced tomato and cucumber salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Note: You can find both tempeh and coconut aminos in health food stores, and on Amazon. You may also substitute coconut aminos with low-sodium soy sauce.

Bloggers at the party

Here is a list of all the bloggers who joined the party – check out each one to see which recipes they chose, and how it turned out. We encourage you to share our page with your parent friends who might like help making mealtime easy and delicious!

And if you are looking for a great gift this holiday season, we encourage you to purchase our cookbook. With herbs, spices, savory recipes and more, it truly is a fantastic gift.:

The Balanced Life – 12/5, Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Studio Botanica – 12/5, Spinach and Goat Cheese Mini Muffins
Sammiches and Psych Meds – 12/5, Dance Party Chicken Nuggets
Tessa from Family Footnote
 – 12/5, Dance Party Chicken Nuggets
The Filled Lantern – 12/6, Mini Basil Meatloaves, Zucchini and Squash Bites, Butternut Squash with Rosemary and Sage, The Iron Chicken Dance
Stay at Home Panda – 12/6, Mini Basil Meatloaves, Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos, Mediterranean Couscous with Feta, Kheema: Indian Ground Beef, Dance Party Chicken Nuggets, Penne with Pumpkin and Sage, Spinach and Goat Cheese Mini Muffins, Almond Butter Banana Boat
Fighting Off Frumpy – 12/6, Mini Basil Meatloaves
Full of Days – 12/7, Dance Party Chicken Nuggets
Ramblin’ Mama – 12/7, Grandma’s English Muffin Pizzas
Purposeful Nutrition – 12/7, Kheema: Indian Ground Beef
Belgian Foodie – 12/8, Dance Party Chicken Nuggets, Cocoa Avocado Smoothie, Baby Gazpacho, Avocado Tomato Hummus Sandwich
Attainable Sustainable – 12/8, Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Lola’s Cocina – 12/9, Jack and the Bean Salad
Tarot by Lisa – 12/9 – Chicken Tikka Masala, Coconut Curry Goan Fish
Mother Fluff – 12/10 – English Muffin Pizzas
Anna Vocino – 12/10 – Turkey Cutlets, Spinach and Goat Cheese Mini Muffins
Kelly from Family Footnote – 12/10 – Cool Cucumber Bites, Strawberry Ricotta Toast, Basil and Kale Frittata
Gluten Free & Other Allergen Free Recipes – 12/10 – Basil and Kale Frittata
SassMouth – 12/11 – The Iron Chicken Dance 
Homegrown & Healthy
Nourishing Days – 12/11 – Krispy Kale Chips 
PunkWife – 12/13 – Tempeh Fingers with Easy Tzatziki

Stage Mom

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Life, Punk Parenting

Yesterday morning was Miss P’s very first dance recital.

They had sent us home with the costume – a little jingle bell tutu skirt and matching hair tie – at the end of her class last week, and even though Miss P loved it and wanted to wear it all day and sleep with it at night, I had to hide it. This was mainly because the sequined jewels kept falling off and I didn’t want it to get ruined, and also because Ciro monster has a habit of putting everything in his mouth these days and I didn’t want him choking on Christmas sparkles. I’m festive and all, but not so much that I need my baby to poop glitter. But it would be fine, because I would keep the tutu safe in my closet until the morning of the recital.

In the week leading up to the recital I thought about how it would all go down: I would get us all ready early enough so that we wouldn’t be rushing around. I’d carefully do Miss P’s hair in an adorable little bun, and maybe even use some hairspray so that it wouldn’t get in her eyes while dancing. My mom got her a new pair of ballet slippers, which I’d tucked into her dance bag from the night before so that we wouldn’t forget them.

I’d get us all out of the house in time to drive uptown, park, get into the auditorium early enough to find a good seat to take a video. I even planned what outfit I would wear so I wouldn’t have to put thought into getting myself ready that morning and could just focus on the kids, which, as any parent knows, the only way you are looking halfway decent and not like you crawled out of a dumpster (smell and everything) is to mentally plan from days ahead. I was on the right path.

Fast forward to yesterday morning, about an hour before we had to leave for the recital, when I realized the tutu was lost. How could this be? Where the heck was it?! No. NO. This can’t be happening. I began running around the upstairs of our home, in and out of the bedrooms, tearing apart closets and drawers in search of this tutu. In the midst of this running around I realized the sweater I picked out for myself was horribly uncomfortable, and the strapless bra I needed to wear with it that refused to stay in place was making me ragey. I made a mental note while ripping through drawers to take this itchy godforsaken sweater off before we left the house, of course after I found the tutu.

I yelled out again to Penelope:

“Sweetheart, are you sure you didn’t see the tutu?”

“No mommy! I don’t know where it is!”

Did I seriously hide the thing so well that even I couldn’t find it? Damn, I’m getting good. Probably also mentally unstable, but I’m trying to see the glass half-full these days.

I glanced at the clock. We were already running behind. If I wanted to get there in time we needed to leave rightnow. My daughter takes dance with a friend, and it just so happens her friend’s mom and I are great friends, too. So I texted her what was happening and because she is amazing and I’m so lucky to have friends in my life who have my back, and because she has her shit together and got to the recital early enough, she began scouting for an extra skirt for us.

Once we got Uptown Greg dropped me and Penelope off in front of the building so that I could get her backstage and grab us some seats, while he took Ciro to find parking. They’d meet us inside.

As we ran through the halls hand-in-hand in a mad dash to the backstage door, Penelope said, “Don’t worry mama! If they don’t have my skirt it’s OK. I don’t need one!” This kid is amazing. And it made it that much better because I never did get to change out of that sweater and by now my strapless bra had fallen down my waist and it looked like I had four boobs.

My incredible lifesaver of a friend met me in the lobby and said that we were still on time, and they had an extra skirt for Penelope. We rushed up to the backstage door and were greeted by one of her teachers.

“Hi! Do you have her ballet slippers?”

My face dropped. Yes, I did have her slippers. They were in her ballet bag, which was tucked safely in the trunk of my car that my husband was currently parking FOUR BLOCKS AWAY.

“It’s OK, we’ll just have your child sift through that bin over there, the one filled with the tears of degenerate mothers. Maybe she’ll find a pair at the bottom,” is what she said with her eyes.

“It’s OK,” said my friend, “let’s just fix her hair and get her backstage.”

I glanced at Penelope who, after all this running around, looked like a toddler version of Diana Ross. I pulled her hair into the best top knot I could muster up, and while doing so I noticed some of the other moms backstage: makeup perfectly done. Coaching their daughters. Pristine outfits and game faces on. One mom even had her hair coiffed so meticulously that I think she had one of those bumper things underneath to give the back of her ponytail a lift, and I’m not knocking her, I’m  simply in awe. How does one have her shit so straight that she can pull herself together like that? I’m over here with my bra around my waist trying to tame my daughter’s wild mane while wondering if she’ll be performing barefoot.

I gave Penelope a kiss and wished her good luck as she ran slipper-less backstage. She was totally happy and could not care any less if she tried, which was the only thing making me feel slightly better about the whole situation.

I made my way to the lobby and found Greg, then grabbed a bouquet of flowers that we could give to Miss P after her performance and brought them to the register.

“That’ll be $10 ma’am.”

“I’m sorry what? I must’ve blacked out. I thought you said you were charging me $10 for those three wilted carnations.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Me: …..

Her: …..

I’m not going to lie to you. I considered tearing off Ciro’s diaper and holding him out rear-first so that he could fire Christmas sparkles all over this display of highway robbery. But we needed to get inside because at this point if we missed the performance I would crawl into whatever black hole that tutu was sitting in and never come out, so we paid for the flowers and in we went.

You guys, she was so stinking cute up there, I could have cried. They danced to Michael Buble’s “Holly Jolly Christmas”, her little slipper-less feet hopping and twirling, a huge beaming smile on her face, and it was so adorable that I almost couldn’t take it. Not a care in the world that her mom lost her tutu and forgot her slippers and didn’t coif her hair, and in that moment I breathed a sigh of relief because none of that stuff mattered to her anyway. She knows I tried, and she is happy.

We got home and put the kids down for a nap, and Greg went off to work. I finally sat down and took a deep breath (after I ripped off that ridiculously itchy sweater, of course). It was a shit-show, but we did it.

After Penelope woke up from her nap, she came over to me with her bed-head and sleepy voice, and said, “Oh hey, mommy! I know where the tutu is.”

“Yeah, baby, that’s the new one we got today.”

“Nope! The other one!” she proudly exclaimed, as she casually walked over to her brother’s book case, pulled one of her old lunch boxes off of a shelf, unzipped it, and removed the skirt from inside. I sat there blinking for what felt like an hour, then we both began laughing like total lunatics.

Toddlers, man. Toddlers.

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas. It really is the best time of the year.

Have a Holly Jolly (toddler) Christmas

2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Gifts, Life, Products, Winter

Moms, dads, boys, girls, babies, pets, and more are all covered in my 2016 Holiday Gift Guide this year. I’m so excited about this year’s finds that I already finished my holiday shopping (who am I??), so let’s jump right into it!

Luxurious Silk Sleep Mask from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This one doesn’t need my explanation, but I’ll give one anyway: it is an exquisite replica of the mask worn by Holly Golightly played by Audrey Hepburn in the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. All details including the bejeweled eye balls are hand sewn and not glued on. And it’s perfect. Luxurious Silk Sleep Mask from Breakfast at Tiffany’s


Infinity Scarf with Secret Pocket. My favorite items are the ones that are both stylish and practical, and that is exactly the idea of this scarf. What will I hide in there? A diaper? Medicinal marijuana? Do you think it’d fit a bottle of wine? Infinity Scarf with Secret Pocket


Amazon Echo, Black. I’m going to rattle off all of the reasons this thing looks pretty awesome. Ready?  It plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice. It allows hands-free convenience with voice-control, and hears you from across the room with far-field voice recognition, even while music is playing (borderline creepy, but let’s go with it). It answers questions, reads audiobooks and the news, reports traffic and weather, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules, and more using the Alexa Voice Service; controls lights, switches, and thermostats, and is always getting “smarter”. Need I say more?Amazon Echo, Black



Losing Your Shit in Public

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Life

It’s nice to feel like you have your shit together in the real world, especially when you are out and about with tiny humans.

But I’ve found that you aren’t really living life until the wheels start coming off and you lose your shit in public.

Our neighborhood recently had an outdoor movie night, filled with fire pits and food trucks and a giant outdoor screen playing Horton Hears a Who.

As you could imagine, this whole scene was absolutely glorious for our three-year-old. But for our one-year-old, Ciro? Let’s just say that Ciro doesn’t give a shit what Horton hears, come 7PM he is tired and cranky and wants his own bed.

I had foolishly brought a travel mug with some wine in it for myself, thinking that if Ciro was calm or – gasp! – actually fell asleep, I’d get to relax and have myself a little drinky by the fire pit. But no dice. Wide awake, fussy baby doth make for a major buzz kill, and before we knew it it was time to go.

We knew it would be a challenge to drag Penelope out of there but we were smart about it, and we did so gently, easing her into the idea from earlier that day. We thought that if we approached it like this, then once we were ready to leave she wouldn’t pull her new favorite protest of high-pitched screaming. So I carefully crept up to her seat as she quietly and ever-so-contently watched the movie with the other children, and whispered that it was time to leave.

But we all know that toddlers are unpredictable little creatures with one job to do, and that is to shatter our self-esteem. After a giant epic meltdown in front of the neighborhood, and with a healthy dose of kicking and screaming, we left.

I took Ciro with me to get the car and was pulling up to pick up Greg, his brother, and Penelope. There was really nowhere for me to stop and since no one was around, I threw on my hazards figuring we’d load up quickly. No big deal. The movie was still going on, so it was somewhat quiet.

I popped the trunk so Greg could load the stroller into the backseat. I knew he’d start grumbling once he saw the forty-two bags of kids clothes I hadn’t yet dropped off to donations, but the real fun began when he folded up the stroller without realizing my travel mug filled with wine was in the lower compartment. Which of course exploded gloriously into a Niagra Falls of cabernet, spilling all over the trunk of our car, and onto Greg’s jeans.

I won’t go into details, but it’s important to note here that my husband is not a quiet man and that he enjoys liberal use of four-letter-words. By this time, naturally, several other cars decided to leave as well, and we were blocking their path while putting on a wonderful show for our neighbors. The soundtrack of Horton Hears a Who was Husband Blows a Gasket.

We packed up the kids, the stroller, and got ourselves situated. On the plus side, we got more of an outdoor movie than we bargained for, with some drama, and some comedy (for me, at least).

But I think the real tragedy here is the unfinished wine.

Toddlerhood: Training for the Big Leagues

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Life, Punk Parenting

I consider myself an informed and reflective person so I’m sharing a word of advice with you here on toddlerhood: training for the big leagues. But in the spirit of full disclosure, if you looked through my Amazon’s “recently viewed” feature, you would find a bag of unicorn farts in my account. So you can take this advice with a grain of salt.

Toddlers are hard.

Miss P is great with her little bro but she’s still an unpredictable three-year-old struggling to control her impulses. That’s a nice way of saying that sometimes, out of sheer frustration, she whacks him into next Wednesday.

A tactic that has been working for us lately: instead of just telling her things like “don’t touch that, share, don’t hit, no no no no” on an endless loop like a drunken speed-dating auctioneer, we’ve been asking her about feelings.

“How do you think your brother felt when you hit him like that? Do you think it made him sad? How do you feel after hitting him?” This comes after we’ve sat her down, probably taken away a toy, and made sure everyone is OK and calm.

This tactic of asking about feelings helps to create empathy, and I find it easier to do because I have been practicing this on myself lately, too.

Spoiler alert: the results have been pretty fucking glorious.

For example, I’m asking myself how I feel about certain things rather than what I think I should do or what I’ve been automatically trained to do. You might be thinking, duh, Ali, this is pretty freaking obvious, but I’ve found that even if we know this, daily life makes us forget it on a regular basis.

Before we know it we are back on the hamster wheel and over-committing ourselves with to-do lists and unending people-pleasing. But checking in with my own feelings helps me prioritize and weed out those things that may seem important but actually are time-suckers that don’t do anything to make my soul happy.

Back to the toddler. This approach of checking in with her own emotions, and those of others, has been encouraging her to think for herself while empathizing at the same time. It goes beyond the logistics (“don’t hit because hitting is bad and mommy and daddy will punish you and take away your toy”) into the emotional (“this is why we don’t hit, acting like this makes us all feel bad inside”). It helps her understand it without making her feel she is inherently bad. Because she’s not – this is normal. And I think it’s the connecting emotionally that will serve her better in the future.

I can see that it’s working because she is getting much better with her brother. She will still hit sometimes but now once she’s calmed down, and without any prompting from us, she will check on him, apologize, and give him a hug. She’s even gone so far as to say, before kissing him goodnight, “I’m sorry I pushed you at breakfast, Ciro”. She also constantly flips through books or magazines, points to people’s faces and says things like “Mama, she’s happy!” or “Mama, why is he sad?” or “What is he thinking about?”

She’s become much better at explaining her own feelings to me, too, catching me off-guard with things like “but mommy I don’t feel happy about going to (fill-in-the-blank)” which has on multiple occasions made me do an about-face at the door and realize: you know what? Neither do I. Let’s stay home and watch a movie together and stop overcommitting ourselves. 

And she’s speaking up for herself. My proudest moment yet as a parent was when I picked her up from preschool one day and her teacher told me: “A little boy in class was poking at her face today and before I could intervene, Penelope yelled, ‘Hey! I don’t like that and you better stop right now!'” It made me even happier that her teacher was just as ecstatic about it as I was.

I view toddlerhood as training for the big leagues. If I want her to trust me, to come to me with her problems well into adolescence when I know things are going to get dicey, then I need to establish that solid connection from now. If we want her to be empathetic, we need to treat her with empathy. If we want her to be in touch with her own feelings and be a strong person who knows what she wants, and to not be coerced into what others may want at the expense of her own will or happiness, we need to help her hone those skills from now.

We’re laying the canvas for what’s to come later, and if we brush her off or treat her as if she is incapable, or teach her that we are unapproachable, that is the way she will likely operate with us as she grows older. We all know that how we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. I want hers to continue to be the empathetic and strong one it already is.

But for the record, as much as I’m trying my best, I am becoming more accepting of myself when I screw up. Because I think it’s kind of OK for my children to fear me every now and then. Is that so bad? Not like, “oh no here comes mommy everyone duck and cover,” but maybe just enough that it makes them think twice about doing something they shouldn’t. Like a once-a-year eruption, where they experience scary octaves in my voice and see my face contort into a sub-human creature of nightmares, to let them know that the monster lives inside me and they best not wake it? To know that sometimes daddy loses his shit because he’s human, too? I think that’s a healthy balance – don’t you?

Even though sometimes toddlerhood can be an annoying, taxing, sanity-robbing, gray-hair-inducing time, taking this approach has taken the intensity down a few notches around here. It’s a win-win because operating within this frame of mind helps me to get through the tough times a little bit easier. Because when it comes to toddlerhood, I’ll take all the help I can get.

And if I am wrong, and this fails miserably with my kids and myself, at least I can drown myself in a big bag of unicorn farts.

MORE Replacements: Products I Stopped Buying (and What I’m Using Instead)

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Life, Products

Lately it’s been “Operation: Simplify” around here. Konmari, purging – call it what you want, just know that things are being tossed and space is being cleared in an effort to keep things as Zen as possible. I eat pretty clean/natural, use a minimal amount of products, and am not a big shopper. I’m always reminding myself (and now my daughter) that no matter what we are doing or using, to only take what we need.

But I also drive an SUV, indulge in hot showers when I can, and will use eighteen paper towels to squash a bug. So maybe not crunchy, but I’m, you know, crispy.

In my last post of Products I Stopped Buying (and What I’m Using Instead), I told you about a natural body scrub, body lotion, an awesome microdermabrasion face scrub, salad dressing, and tea. Here are a few more things to add to the “crispy” repertoire:

MORE Replacements: Products I Stopped Buying (and What I’m Using Instead)

Deodorant. Does this sound ridiculous? Because it did to me at first. Make my own deodorant, what are you freaking crazy?! Get a life! But I was curious and I hate the toxic shit-show of ingredients in traditional deodorants (not to mention that I am breastfeeding, which means toxins are literally coming out of my nipples). So I made a batch of “clean” deodorant. It took me 3 minutes. It involves 4 ingredients. The result is that I haven’t bought deodorant in a year and a half. And IT WORKS. Bonus points for the fact that I keep it in the fridge, so I enjoy a nice mini-cool down every time I apply. DO IT – you’ll never look back. Here’s the recipe I follow.

Orange juice. I like my Vitamin C, especially this time of year. I bought a citrus juicer back when I worked at Anthropologie because I was obsessed with everything in that store and was getting 40% off as an employee. It makes me happy. And I like fresh-squeezed juice, because even the most “natural” OJs are actually very much processed and lying liars make me angry. Fresh squeezing takes me 2 minutes, I get a little arm workout, and Penelope loves helping. (And there are no lurking chemicals.) Here is one that is similar to the one I have.

Coffee maker. We switched over to a french press, so technically I didn’t so much get rid of something, but the french press doesn’t require coffee filters or even an outlet. Just sweet, sweet coffee, plus hot water. I’m HOOKED. It’s easy, fast, and makes an awesome cup of coffee, and I love that it stores in our cabinet so there’s no more precious counter space being eaten up by a coffee machine. But fair warning: I feel like my french press makes stronger coffee than my old coffee machine and that first day I was BUZZING. I had to nurse poor Ciro and I thought I would send him to the moon. Clearly, there’s an adjustment period.

Eye makeup remover. I attended a hippie party (I told you I was crispy) and discovered a great eye makeup remover recipe: witch hazel + almond oil + water. I keep it in a small bottle in my medicine cabinet and use it every night. It works like a charm. Almond oil has tons of Vitamin E, it’s cheap to buy, and is great for your skin. Re-use a bottle of any size, fill it with equal parts almond oil/witch hazel/water, and squeeze some onto a cotton ball to remove your makeup at night. (And if you do it after the mini-microderm I talked about in my first post your skin will feel sooooo soft – I try to do this a few times per week.)

Saran wrap. I got tired of buying it, it’s wasteful, and trying to get it to stick to anything in the first place would drive me insane. Now instead, I use these beeswax wraps. They are reusable (for up to a year!) and they actually freaking work, which is more than I can say for the saran wrap. You lay this beeswax wrap over a bowl or container and it seals quickly and easily with the warmth of your hands. You can even wrap it directly around the food itself – no bowl required.

Oh, and here’s a bonus one: limp plumpers. Forget fancy, expensive lip-plumping tools. Want fuller lips? Here, hold my son for 10 minutes. His favorite new trick is to whip his head around unexpectedly and blast me in the face with it. He’s given me at least 5 bloody lips already, but hey, once the blood stops, they are much more luscious! (OK so this one probably just pertains to me. But I did want to let you know just how much of a maniac Ciro is.)

Now give me YOUR tips: what did you stop buying? What do you use instead?

Best Birthday Party Idea: Box Car Drive-In DIY

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Decorating, DIY, Life, Punk Kids, Tips and Tricks

Think outside the box, children! Unless you’re having a 3rd birthday party. Then by all means, please get inside this box, with your box of food, while you watch that box on the wall. (But trust me, you will love this in-the-box thinking!)


Miss P turned three recently. THREE. It feels weird to even type that, let alone come to the realization that three years ago that she came into this world. I could go on and on about that, but for now, I want to share with you the pics and DIY of what is possibly THE best birthday party idea: Box Car Drive-In DIY.

(Note: I will include all links at the bottom of the post for reference, in case you decide to do a party like this – I highly recommend it!)

Box Car Drive-In DIY

Eighteen toddlers/kids, all set up in box cars, watching a movie in our living room. Does that sound crazy? Of course it does. But I’m happy to report that our lunacy came in handy because IT WORKED!

It was inexpensive, low maintenance, and last minute (hail to the gods of pizza, popcorn, and Amazon Prime!). Double bonus for the fact that the kids ate in their boxes too, so the messes were pretty much contained.

So let’s see: Kids entertained? Check. Parents able to hear themselves think, and maybe have a conversation? Check. Easy cleanup, simple menu, glass of wine for parents? Check, check, and hellyesbigfatcheckmark!

Here’s the lowdown on how we did it:

We set the scene

We purchased these boxes from Lowe’s for $1 and change each. I made a “license plate” for each of the kids by cutting plain printer paper and writing their names in marker, then taping it to the back. I bought a set of plain black plates from the dollar store and taped 4 to each box, so they looked like “wheels”.

We moved our couch so we had the whole width of the room and could fit the boxes.


When the guests arrived we told each child to find their box and take it outside to decorate it, where I had set out markers and dollar store stickers for them to use. (This made the kids light up more than I expected, and reiterated the fact that all you really need is a cardboard box to make a kid happy.)

We kept decorations simple and fun

Once the kids decorated their boxes they had fun with the other decorations we set out: a “photo booth” with props, a movie-theme banner, and a “red carpet”:




We kept food simple

Pizza and popcorn for everybody, with a couple of large salads for the adults if they wanted a healthier option.

I found these adorable concession-style trays on Amazon that had a spot for drink, popcorn, and food. They worked GREAT and I loved how they kept the food (read: MESS) inside the box.

We set them up on our kitchen island with a big bowl of popcorn in the middle so people could self-serve:


(Those juice boxes you see in the far back-right of the photo were bought two in a pack at the dollar store.)

Once the kids finished decorating their boxes we set them up with their pizza, popcorn, and drinks, then they got in their boxes, and we started the movie.

They STAYED IN THEIR BOXES AND WATCHED THE MOVIE. We almost could not believe it.


Parents could actually talk to each other! The kids were even yelling at us to keep it down so they could hear better, I kid you not. (For reference, we watched the movie The Good Dinosaur. The ages of the kids ranged from 3 – 8. I tested it out on P a few days before by setting up a box for her and showing her the movie, and not only did she stay in her box but she actually asked me to watch it again once it was over.)

And the mess was contained, because they ate their food IN THEIR BOXES. This is a neat-freak’s dream.


After the movie was over we hung out for a bit, then sang Happy Birthday to Miss P.

I was about to pay a small fortune for a specialty themed cake for her but figured I’d ask our local Whole Foods if they could do it. Not only did they say yes but they gave me email addresses for their head bakers so I could send them photos of what I wanted. Look below the cake – they made the cupcakes look like buckets of popcorn!


I also coordinated with our local snow cone truck to come by at that time so the kids had either cake/cupcakes, and/or a snow cone. You could probably guess that many had both, and I think it took Miss P three weeks to process all of that sugar. I’m a bit of a nut about clean-eating and no sweets, but I know when to let go, and I think a third birthday is a perfect occasion to swallow your neurosis and let the shit-show happen.


“Goody Bags”

I’ll put this out there from now: I am a goody bag party-pooper. I know it’s a nice touch but I never want to do them because I don’t want to fill them with even more candy or throw-away toys, or give parents a headache in the car on the way home when their toddler is having a melt-down because they want to open and eat everything and play with all the things RIGHTNOW. But I found the ridiculously awesome (and theme-appropriate) idea to send guests home with (drum roll please…) Redbox Gift Card Codes!

These were inexpensive and easy to do, thanks to a fellow blogger – just download the printable template and follow her instructions to purchase the codes, then plug them in on your computer and print. DONE!

I added them to a bag with some sidewalk chalk and a small bag of chocolate chip cookies:


(I blurred out where the code is so this party-goer can still use it, but you can see where it goes – and the printable is really easy to use.)

That was it! We had a blast and I would do this every year if my kids let me. As promised, here are all the links where you can find everything we used for the party:


So tell me: would you do this? Did you do it already? Let me know in the comments!

Listen in: Vinnie Tortorich Podcast

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in Book Reviews, Gifts, Inspiration, Just for Laughs, Life, Punk Parenting, Recipes

You know when you meet someone and you instantly feel like you’ve known them forever? You just sort of get each other? That’s my friend Vinnie. He’s also an author and is a celebrity fitness trainer (and he has great stories). Come listen to me talk to him on his podcast about good food, growing up Italian-American, and What a Good Eater!. (He tries to get me to talk smack about Marge, but I love Marge.)

To listen, click this link: Alessandra Macaluso talks to Vinnie Tortorich and then click ‘play podcast’.


The Thing That’s Been Saving My Sanity

Written by Alessandra on . Posted in DIY, Giveaways!, Inspiration, Life, Punk Kids, Punk Parenting

Lately I’ve been feeling depleted. At this point in my life I know myself enough to recognize that I need to do certain things in order to feel grounded – things that “fill my cup”, so to speak – and lately I have been participating in exactly zero of those things.

I’ve basically been pouring things out of my cup. I can always tell when I feel off-balance and am not taking care of myself enough because I’m extra low on energy, I don’t sleep right, and I’m short-tempered.

I’ve tried a million things to organize myself and desperately make time for those things that fill my cup: reminders on my phone, a physical day planner, even a giant color-coded calendar stuck to my refrigerator staring me in the face each day. Nothing works.

Instead once I have a minute of “free” time where someone is miraculously not pulling on me or screaming “Mama!” or needing something, I go completely blank. Can’t. Remember. Anything.

I was re-organizing recently and I came across these wooden chips I bought several years ago for a craft project gone wrong. I never used them and instead tossed them into the vortex of my craft closet.

It occurred to me that I could write on them, so I took out a silver marker and wrote some of the things that make me feel grounded. I found a green jar to toss the coins into when I do one of these things. Here’s a sampling of my coins:


An at-home yoga session, connecting with a friend or family member, pitching an article idea, alone time with my daughter, submitting a piece of writing somewhere – these are a few of the things that “fill me up” emotionally.

Instead of trying to schedule specific times to do these things, since that never works out and sets up unrealistic expectations, I would just try to do most of these things at some point within a week whenever I could. Trying is good enough for me.

And each week I hit the “reset” button by taking all the coins out of the jar and starting over. Which is nice, because then no one’s keeping score and if the week prior was a big fat failure then I get to wipe the slate clean like it never happened.


It might seem ridiculous but I swear every time I drop a coin in the jar it feels like I am investing money into an emotional piggy bank. It’s addicting.

I hesitated putting this out there in case it didn’t work for me but I’m going on week 4 now, and I have to say I feel much, much better. I never use all the coins up each week but I come pretty damn close every time, and I like that a list of all of the things that make me feel good are all in one place so I don’t need to think.

Penelope was so curious, and loves playing with my jar. She can’t read yet but she recognizes the words and knows what each of the coins say. I explained to her that this is Mommy’s “sanity glass” and she was confused for a minute because it didn’t have a stem on it. (I’m kidding. Not really.)

But once I fully explained it we took out some paint and made some for her:


She got into it pretty quickly and had a great time painting them. (Note to self: she is also dangerously too close to our couch with tubs of paint.)


Then we talked about the things she loves to do, that make her heart feel happy, and wrote them on her coins. Here are some of those things:


I love how colorful and fun hers came out!


We put them in a favorite container of hers that she decorated with stickers.

I totally recommend doing this, whether for yourself or as a craft to do with your toddler. And since I have a ton of these wooden coins left I am going to give away a set of ten to one reader – just comment on this post, tell me what things you want written on your coins (or if you want blank ones), and leave me your email address. I’ll message you for details and send some emotional coins your way 😉

What fills your cup? What things do you need to do – be it weekly, monthly, or daily – that make you feel a little less insane? I’ll draw the winner at random one week from today!

Copyright 2015 PunkWife. All rights reserved.