Teeth Whitening at Newport Center Smile Design

I recently looked in the mirror and noticed that my teeth are not quite the shade of white that I remember or want them to be. And I show my teeth – a lot. I’ve been called “horse teeth” on more than one occasion. I don’t even mind anymore. I embrace my huge smile, but the yellowing of my teeth over time (thank you coffee and red wine) – I do not love so much.

I have been thinking about whitening my teeth for some time now, but was a little unsure about the process – “is it safe? will it work?”. I didn’t know what to do – over the counter strips, in office procedures, the “au-natural” solutions (activated charcoal anyone?).

After a bit of research, I found that the safest, most-effective way to whiten your teeth is to have it done by a professional dentist. In-office whitening takes place under carefully monitored conditions which allow for the safe, controlled, pain-free use of a relatively high concentration of bleaching gel – yielding results that are visible immediately. Additionally, gum and tooth sensitivity (formerly drawbacks to in-office bleaching) are more controllable today due to thicker peroxide gels (that don’t soak into the teeth as much as previous gels) and the use of desensitizers such as potassium nitrate and fluoride.

With that information in-hand, I recently visited the offices of K. Douglas Barker, DMD of Newport Center Smile Design for the Philips Zoom teeth whitening procedure.

On the day of the procedure, I was still a little nervous and unsure about what to expect. I was quickly put at ease when I met Dr. Barker. He has a wonderful “chair-side” manner. He let me know exactly what to expect and how long the procedure would take.

Dr. Barker and staff quickly got to work on my smile. The first step was to apply a barrier to protect my gums. Next, the teeth whitening gel is applied. It remained on my teeth for 20 minutes.

That gel is then removed and another is applied along with the light. This takes another 20 minutes.

After that, just rinse and you are done. The whole procedure takes under an hour. Your teeth continue to whiten over the next 48 hours. In addition to the office whitening, Dr. Barker sent me home with some whitening trays to use the following day. There is an upper and lower tray. The at-home procedure only took about 15 minutes.

So, in just over an hour, I had significantly whiter teeth.

The results are even more pronounced in person. I am very happy with my brighter, whiter smile.

Dr. Barker doesn’t just offer teeth whitening. His practice, Newport Center Smile Design, is a true full-service dental facility. A family practice that treats patients of all ages, their services include:  general and restorative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, Opalescence and Zoom teeth whitening, Invisalign, full implants and implant restorations, endodontic treatment and periodontal care.

Originally from Florida, attending dental school in NYC, Dr. Barker recently relocated to Southern California with his wife Heather, and is here to stay. His office in Newport Beach was occupied by the previous dentist (who recently retired) for 30 years. Dr. Barker wants to do the same in that location! He is here to stay and serve his patients in the Orange County area.

I like the fact that Dr. Barker sees only one patient at a time, so each person can get the attention he or she deserves. His office uses digital radiography, which reduces the amount of radiation exposure, and an intraoral camera, which allows for improve diagnostics and shows patients exactly what is going on in their mouth. Plus, Dr. Barker wears the cutest bow ties ever!

If you are looking for a family dentist who is knowledgeable, personable, and conveniently located in Orange County for the long-run, Dr. Barker would be an excellent choice.

Dr. Barker can help you and your family take care of those pearly whites, and make them even whiter – safely, effectively, and in under an hour. Thank you Dr. Barker for making these horse teeth shine again!


Winder Farms Burger Contest

As a regular customer of Winder Farms‘ delivery service, I love Wednesdays. I wake up to find bags of fresh, local, organic items delivered to my door. It’s like a present on my front porch.

I also love the reusable insulated bags. They keep my products fresh and cold. Each week, I return the bags from the week before to my front porch for pick up and get new ones delivered – no waste!

So when they approached me with the idea of participating in a burger challenge, I was all in. I just added a few items to my regular weekly order, and I was ready for the challenge.

My goal was to create a healthy, tasty burger, using as many organic ingredients as possible. I also wanted to create a burger that is in-line with my macronutrient ratios (the ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat in each meal) – something I learned to monitor closely while participating in the Twelve-Week Challenge at The12 gym in Irvine last year.

Inspired by the “burger salad” I usually order when we eat at The Counter – and by the shishito peppers included in last week’s organic produce box, I created my recipe.

I call it the Turkey-Sishito Pepper-Avocado-Cilantro burger. Kind of a mouthful, but it was a tasty mouthful for sure.

Burger Ingredients:

1 pound extra-lean ground turkey

1/2 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 shishito peppers, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped)

1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

egg white from one large organic egg

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for one hour to allow seasonings to marinate. Remove from refrigerator and form into four patties. Barbeque or heat on kitchen grill. We chose to barbeque ours while enjoying some gorgeous summer evening weather.

Next, I made the “spread” – which would be dressing for my salad and the bun spread for the family’s burgers

Creamy Avocado-Cilantro Dressing/Spread

1/2 ripe avocado

1 cup of loose, fresh cilantro – approx., adjust according to taste

2 cloves of garlic

Juice from 1/2 lime

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

3/4 cup plain low-fat organic yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

In Vitamix (or other food processor or blender) combine avocado, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice. Blend on low to medium speed to combine. Add salt, olive oil and yogurt. Blend until creamy and pourable. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for one hour to allow flavors to combine.

I placed my burger on a bed of organic baby romaine mix from my Winder Farms shipment. I topped it with sliced tomato and avocado, and a spoonful of my homemade avocado/cilantro dressing.

While the burger salad works for me, my husband and kids are not fans. One trick I learned during my fitness challenge was to cook one meal that can be modified easily to accommodate all of our eating preferences. So, for my husband and the kids, we added a piece of cheese (because they can’t imagine why anyone would eat a burger without cheese) and a Udi’s gluten free hamburger bun. We spread the avocado-cilantro dressing on the bun, topped the burgers with sliced tomato, avocado, and lettuce.

Bun or no bun, everyone agreed that the turkey burger was moist and flavorful. My kids didn’t even mind the peppers – shishito peppers are very mild. I just told them the “green stuff” was herbs and seasonings and they never guessed there were any peppers in the burger.

Almost all of the ingredients for this burger were supplied by Winder Farms. I purchased organic if available. Where possible, I provided a link above to the exact product I used to make this burger.

Winder Farms, which began by delivering fresh dairy products to doorsteps back in 1880, today is more like a farmers market on wheels, delivering fresh groceries to the doors of families in Utah, Nevada and California. In addition to their award-winning dairy products, they deliver fresh produce, baked goods, premium meats, and much more. Winder Farms delivers over 300 products that come fresh from the farm, right to your doorstep.

Now, if I could only get them to deliver wine… ;)

Nutritional note: The burger salad has approximately 370 calories and macronutrient ratios are 34% protein, 43% fat and 23% carbohydrates (with 40/30/30 being ideal ratios for the day, this meal comes very close).

Summer Activities for Kids

Summer has started for many of you. I’m a little jealous of the summer Facebook posts already filling up my newsfeed. Sadly, at our house, summer is still weeks away – June 25th can not come fast enough!

Although we all can’t wait for summer now, I know that inevitably, about four days in I’ll hear those famous words, “Mom, I’m bored.”

We have no major summer vacation planned this year, so I’m sure “I’m bored” will be heard frequently around our house. When my kids were younger, and boredom led to creative play, artwork and playing outside, I didn’t mind so much. A little boredom was good for them. Now that they are older, and boredom leads to video games and YouTube, I like to keep them busy.

Here are some of my favorite summer activities for kids. Criteria for this list – they must be free or inexpensive (no Disneyland trips or tips on this post), they must be eco-friendly (i.e. no burning of fossil fuels or excessive use of plastic), they should be suitable to a wide variety of ages (I don’t specialize in babies or toddler activities anymore), and they must be local to Orange County.

This is also not an exhaustive 101-things-to-do-and-that-is-every-single-thing-I-can-think-of-and-you-are-exhausted-just-reading-it list. These are things we have actually done ourselves and found enjoyable for adults and kids alike:

Exploring OC Parks:

Hiking – The OC Parks have great hiking trails. Some of my favorite are back in the Whiting Ranch area. Of the 27 trails in Whiting, one in particular that is a great hike for kids is the Red Rock Trail. It’s not a really long or steep hike, you can do the round trip (from the park entrance in Foothill Ranch to the end and back) in under two hours – or less depending upon the age of your kids. The best part is at the end, you are rewarded with the Red Rock view. It feels like you have entered the desert of Arizona. So cool!


OC Parks Summer Programs – OC Parks also have lots of great summer programs. Some of these include:

Animated Animals with the Chuck Jones Center – a new children’s art program in partnership with the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. Kids ages 9-16 are invited to bring animals to life through drawing with Chuck Jones Center artists. Children will draw their own animals with the help of the Chuck Jones art teachers and meet the real live animals of the OC Zoo. Each class admission is $10 per child. Parent observers are asked to pay a $2 zoo admission fee. The program will take place on June 27 and August 6 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. Space is limited and reservations are required for all OC Zoo programs. To register for the Animated Animals with the Chuck Jones Center please call (714) 973-6846.

Prehistoric Kids Day – Saturday, June 28, 2014, 10:00am to 2:00pm at the Muth Interpretive Center at Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.  The Prehistoric Kids Day event will present Orange County’s rich heritage of natural history, prehistoric animals and plants, and local Native American history to the community. Activities include archaeological and paleontological demonstrations, exhibits, Junior Scientist Camp, educational crafts and hands-on activities. Members of the Kizh/Gabrielino tribe will be present to share their culture with visitors. Event and parking are FREE. For more information please click here or call (949) 923-2290.

OC Parks Concert Series – OC Parks annual outdoor summer concert series includes ten free concerts with Southern California artists performing live under the summer sky – on Thursday evenings June 26 through August 28. All of the OC Parks Summer Concerts are part of The World Famous KROQ’s ROQ N’ Surf summer series. Shows are from 6 to 8 p.m.. Concert admission and parking are FREE and open to the public of all ages. Food trucks will be on-site at each location so you don’t even need to pack a picnic in advance. Bring a blanket and a beach chair, your own picnic dinner or dinner from the food trucks, and enjoy great local live music under the stars at OC Parks this summer season. For more info go to ocparks.com.


Discovery Science Center – It’s Orange County’s leading destination for hands-on, interactive science fun. I especially like the Eco-Challenge interactive exhibit, where kids can learn how to become an eco-friendly shopper in the Discovery Market, discover the importance of identifying and properly disposing of household hazardous waste in the Eco Garage, and learn how to be wise about sorting trash and recyclables in the Race to Recycle. It’s specifically designed to meet the science content standards for 3rd to 6th grades, so perfect for that age group.


And this month, Discovery Science Center is holding an Eco-Challenge Poster Contest. Combining two of my favorite things – sustainability and Angels baseball – the contest runs through the entire month of June. In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the County of Orange, the County is looking for young artists to create artwork demonstrating what the next 125 years will look like if we take the Eco Challenge and work toward a sustainable future. Just bring or mail your entry to Discovery Science Center by June 30, 2014 and five winners (one from each of Orange County’s Supervisorial District) will be awarded the status of Honorary Bat Kid during an Angels Baseball home game in 2014.

Volunteering and Donating - Volunteering is a great way to get your kids to think outside of their own little bubble (always a challenge), and to give back to your local community. In addition to volunteering, we will be cleaning out closets to donate to Goodwill, gathering old blankets and towels to donate to our local animal shelter, and gathering food and clothing donations for the Orange County Rescue Mission. To match your interests and location to the right volunteer opportunities, visit volunteermatch.org.

Classes at Local Community Colleges – Your local community colleges offer lots of great classes over the summer – classes specific to hobbies, interests, and sports. From swimming, to cooking, to chess, to art and theater, there are classes for virtually every interest.

There are also some academic class offerings, including the College for Kids series at Saddleback College, where students between 7 to 17 years old have an opportunity to experience college life and develop their own individualized class schedules from a wide range of offerings, including: acting, archeology, art, chess, computers, film and animation, history, languages, manners, math, modeling, music, reading, science, sports, study skills, theater, writing, and more. New to the program this summer is an offering of a College For Kids Junior program for 3 to 5-year-olds.

All classes are offered in two-week blocks, Monday through Thursday, June 30th through August 7th. Click here for more information and to register.

The Sawdust Festival –  The Sawdust Art Festival is a tradition for us each summer. This year, the festival runs from Friday, June 27th to Sunday, August 31st. It’s not only a great activity to do with the kids, it supports local artists in Orange County. The Sawdust Art Festival is a non-profit group educating the public and promoting the art created in Laguna Beach.

It’s open daily from 10-10. Admission is $8.50 for adults, $4.00 for kids 6-12 and free for kids under 5. There are also discount tickets available – for more information, click here.

There is plenty to entertain the kids, including a kids art center, reserved just for young artists to make their own creations – at no charge. There are also free live art demonstrations and art workshops (additional fee for workshops). My kids enjoy the “throw-down experience” where they get to create their own pottery on the potter’s wheel – with some guidance from experts to help them. You can get their creation fired and painted for an additional $8.00.


OC Beaches – A good day at the beach is hard to beat – it’s one of the reasons many of us live here. There are no shortage of great beaches in Orange County. Some of our favorites are Crescent, Thousand Steps, and Victoria in Laguna and Huntington Main Beach for riding our cruiser bikes. Even the dogs enjoy a good ride along the beach, with a quick stop at Dog Beach, of course.


For a good list of beaches in Orange County, check out visittheoc.com.

When you go, don’t forget your safer, all-natural sunscreen. You can find a complete list of better sunscreens over at the Environmental Working Group. Which works out well when you have young kids and you are supervising the sunscreen application. When you have teenagers however, they will pretty much refuse to wear anything other than spray-on, brand-name, chemically-laden sunscreens. If you don’t have those at home, they will just borrow their friends at the beach. Eventually, after a few summers of this, you decide you’re not going to die on that hill – that summer is short and they will probably survive the application and inhalation of chemical sunscreen fumes – just as you will survive parenting during the teen years. Just keeping it real here folks. But if you have young kids, by all means take a look at that list and find some safer sunscreens for you and your family.

Taking Public Transportation – Public transportation is alive and well in Orange County. You don’t have to drive everywhere this summer! Taking public transportation is easier than you think. Two of our favorite summer destinations in Orange County are Angels Stadium and the OC Fair. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) makes it easy (and saves you money) when traveling to both.

Here is a previous post I wrote here at OC Family about traveling to the Orange County Fair on OCTA. You can also travel to Angels Stadium on the Angels Express – and even get 50% of game tickets when you do. For more details about the Angels Express, click here.


Here’s hoping you get out and enjoy some of the many fun, cheap, and sustainable summer activities in Orange County. Happy almost summer!

The12 Movement Takes Over OC

I recently finished a Twelve-Week Challenge at The12 gym in Irvine. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

If you are interested in hearing more about this program, I wrote extensively about my journey, from the initial ten-day cleanse to my final results over on my personal blog, ocgreenmama.com.

If you want the cliff notes version, here it is –

In just twelve weeks, I lost over 12 pounds. Most remarkably, this weight loss was entirely from fat. No loss of water, no loss of muscle. 100% fat loss! My total percentage of body fat dropped from 23.5% to 16.5%.

I have finished, and am happier, lighter, and sleeping better than ever in my adult life. It was an amazing transformation, both physically and emotionally.

Up to this point, I’ve written fairly extensively on my blog about the food aspect of my challenge. What I haven’t yet touched on, is the “fitness” part of my twelve-week fitness challenge.

The thing that I found unique about The Twelve Week Fitness Challenge at The12 is the comprehensiveness of the program. I have never experienced a program that provides this combination of proper nutrition, personalized workouts, extensive coaching and feedback.

As part of my twelve-week fitness challenge, I committed to taking three classes a week at The12 in Irvine. In addition, I tried to do one other exercise a week, like running or hiking. I DID NOT workout every day, and daily workouts are not required or recommended in the challenge. But I did workout regularly and consistently, trying to skip no more than two to three days in between classes.

You do not have to participate in a challenge to take classes at The12. In fact, the majority of people who workout there are not participating in a challenge at all.

The classes at The12 are not like any I have taken in the past. And believe me, I’ve been through my share of exercise plans. From P90X, to every type of class offered at traditional gyms, to boot camp, to yoga and barre class. I’ve done it all. But I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.

At The12, they call their classes “Afterburn Training” –  a total body, high intensity style program, utilizing free weights, resistance and body weight, to keep you in your optimal fat burning zone, while building muscle at the same time.

The thing that makes these classes different is the unique way they combine cardio and strength training to keep you in your “fat burning” zone for the entire hour. At the same time, the resistance training builds muscle, with focus on alternating muscle groups each day. I appreciate the uniqueness of each class (never the same class twice), the energy level of the instructors and participants, and the music. I have never been bored or not challenged in a class.

But not only does the uniqueness prevent boredom, it’s specifically designed to be “Plateau Proof”; providing a different emphasis and heart rate target per class, so the body is unable to get accustomed to the format. When you keep your body guessing, you are resistant to the workout “slump” you see with most programs.

Here’s a little clip I shot during class – on Tuesday, which is always the day for the class called “Compound Cardio Chaos” – my personal favorite – on The12’s training schedule.

And one more my trainer Tricia Buck shot of a class I took recently.

Hopefully these clips, although a little shakey, give you just a small taste of the energy of the class. To sum it up, the classes are just plain fun. I know it sounds strange to say that a one-hour, tough, sweaty workout is fun, but it is – it’s the combination of the movement, the music, and most of all the people.

There are ten classes per day at The12. From 5:00am to 7:30pm, there is a class to accommodate virtually any schedule. Each class is the same workout regimen, but there are different instructors. Each instructor gives their class a name – there’s the Wolf Pack, Ninjas, Warriors, Honey Badgers. And then there is my class, the 8:30am Hustlers. Here we are after class this week.

If you are looking for fun, fat-burning, muscle-building classes that really work, in a small family-like environment, look no further. With the combination of energy, music and results, there is simply nothing else like The12 in Orange County.

I expect this is just the beginning of this movement…

A special offer for OC Family readers – three FREE classes at The12. Just mention that Allison from OC Family sent you and you are on your way to the best fitness and fun in Orange County.*

Call or stop by The 12 for more information.

The gym is located at 17532 Von Karman Avenue, Irvine  (949) 222-9052

Also go follow The12Movement on Facebook for lots more information, motivation, and diet and exercise tips.

*New clients only.


Farm to Table Dinner at Future Foods Farms

If you are looking for one of the most unique dining experiences in Orange County, you will find it at Future Foods Farms in Brea.

Future Foods Farms is the brain-child of award-winning Chef and urban-garden innovator Adam Navidi. One Saturday a month, Adam hosts a “farm to table” dinner and farm tour of his organic, sustainable aquaponic farm.

Aquaponic farms are on-site food production systems, combining aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil). The fish waste provides food for the plants and the plants naturally filter the water the fish live in, in a symbiotic, closed-loop system.

From the time I first met Adam while writing an article for OC Metro back in January, I wanted to attend one of his farm-to-table dinners. Finally, this past weekend, we made it happen. “Wow”, is all I can say. The experience truly exceeded my expectations.

When we arrived at the farm and entered the first greenhouse, we were greeted with champagne and a welcoming family-style table.

Once all the guests arrived (courtesy of the farm’s white shuttle van), Adam greeted us and took us on a tour of the farm.

On the tour, Adam provided great detail about his aquaponic growing systems and sustainability initiatives. From the reclaimed items used to build the farm, to the multiple-bed gravity flow system and state-of-the-art recirculation system that require little water or energy to operate, Future Foods Farms is truly sustainable from source material to end product. The farm uses no insecticides, pesticides, or chemical sprays. A methane power plant supplies what little energy the farm needs, and a team of 300 goats provide weed abatement.

It is exciting to see how truly passionate Adam is about sustainable, organic food. With a goal of changing the face of agriculture in America, Adam believes “Someday great chefs will be known not only by the recipes and methods they cook their food with, but by the recipes and methods they grow their food with.”

The passion Adam has for growing food is matched by his passion for preparing it. After the farm tour, we were in for the real treat of the night – a six-course meal prepared using food from the farm. Anything that can not be found on the farm (like the meats) is sustainably sourced from other local farmers.

Every course was a work of art that tasted as good as it looked. You can actually taste the creativity and dedication Chef Adam puts into the food in each bite. The salad in the large photo below, was honestly the best salad I have ever had in my life and I am not exaggerating. It was creative, different, and absolutely delicious.

We went with some friends who are big time foodies, and we all agreed, it was one of the best meals we have had in recent memory.

If you are interesting in experiencing this one-of-a-kind dinner, either on a date, with friends, or even for a group, here are some of the details:

Farm-To-Table Organic Farm Tours & Tastings are generally one Saturday a month. The next one is scheduled for November 16th. You can check for other upcoming dates here.

Tour begins at 5 pm in Fall and Winter due to the early sunset.

Cost is $95 per person and is all-inclusive (tour, dinner, gratuity & tax). Groups of up to 40 can be accommodated.

You can bring your favorite bottle of wine or beer (no corkage fee) to pair with your tasting. A glass of champagne and non-alcoholic beverages are provided – the lemon-grass water is delicious.

Wear comfortable, low shoes and bring a sweater or light jacket. Although there is a heater in the greenhouse, it cools off pretty quickly when the sun goes down.

Click here to reserve your date today. You will not be disappointed!

Win Tickets to Harvest Festival Art and Craft Show

The Harvest Festival Original Art and Craft Show is coming to Anaheim Convention Center – Friday through Sunday, October 11-13th.

I’m a big believer in supporting local artists and goods made in the USA. At the Harvest Festival, you can do both.

The Festival is the West Coast’s largest indoor craft showcase, offering over 24,000 handcrafted, “Made in the USA” originals at affordable prices. There will be hundreds of exhibits featuring ceramics, paintings, jewelry, hand blown glass, antique treasures, children’s accessories, hand woven clothing, photography, candles, woodwork, sculptures, ornaments, Halloween treasures, and more.

With a Kidzone with interactive play, strolling performers, live music, specialty foods, and more, there is plenty to do for all ages.

You can win a family four-pack of tickets (good for the entire weekend) by leaving a comment below. In your comment, I’d like to hear if you’ve been to the festival before. If you have, what are the “can’t miss” products and activities that you recommend? The winner will be chosen via random.org on Monday, October 7th and notified via email (please make sure the email you provide with your comment is valid – email address is not published).

Here’s the scoop on the festival:

When:  October 11-13, 2013

Where:  Anaheim Convention Center, Hall E, 800 West Katella Avenue, Anaheim

Hours:  Friday & Saturday 10:00am to 6:00pm; Sunday: 10:00am to 5:00pm

Tickets:  Adults: $9, Seniors (62+) $7, Youths (13-17) $4, Kids 12 & under are free (Tickets are good for the entire weekend).

Bring a non-perishable food donation for Second Harvest Food Bank and get $2 off admission.

Additional information and tickets available at harvestfestival.com or by phone at (800) 346-1212

When Back to School Shopping Goes Bad

I recently went back-to-school shopping with my kids, who will both be in Jr. High this year. Hold me.

How can my kids be that old? How am I going to handle two with the raging tween/teen hormones? When did this happen? How did this happen? (wait, don’t answer that)

Don’t get me wrong, I actually love the ages they are right now. They are funny, and interesting, and opinionated and smart, and finally laugh at my jokes – well, not all of them but at least a few. Also, I can leave them home for short periods of time. I don’t have to drag two kids around with me everywhere I go this summer. Freedom!

Except when I take them back-to-school shopping. For that, they need to come along to offer their opinions – and boy, they have no shortage of those.

I remember fondly the days of grade school.

Those days they would sit together in that over-sized shopping cart – the one that sort of feels like you are pushing a Zamboni around the store – while I loaded the cart with all the items I picked out for them (organic cotton shirts – fine, recycled paper – great, organic shampoo and hand sanitizer – no problem) and our shopping trip went more like this,

“Put that down.”

“Stop touching your sister.”

“No you can’t unbuckle and run around the store…Wait, come back here!”

And while those days were challenging for many reasons, I appreciate that when shopping, I was free to choose and purchase any items that I wanted. They pretty much went with the flow.

Now, it’s all changed. Back-to-school shopping has become an endless series of negotiations.

My daughter Emma asks, “Mom, can I have this notebook?” I answer, “How about this one, it’s made from recycled paper?” She responds, “Yes, but this one is turquoise.”

Over in the makeup aisle, Emma says “Mom can I have this Revlon lipstick?” I respond (not even looking at it) “No.”

She finds another brand I’ve never heard of, “How about this one?” She hands it over and I read the label, “The first ingredient is petroleum. Put it back.”

Not one to give up easily, Emma finds a third and says “What about this EOS lip gloss? You said it was okay last time.” Giving in, I say “Okay, that one.”

This endless series of negotiations lasted through pencils (they want the mechanical ones with the plastic outsides instead of regular biodegradable wood ones), pens (the giant pack of colored ones we don’t really need), binders (do those have PVC in them or not? I can’t tell).

I was at the point of exhaustion when this exchange happened:

Emma: “You know, Ellis (my son) is going to need deodorant for his PE locker. We need to get an extra one for him.”

Ellis: “Mom, can I please, please have some regular deodorant? I promise I’ll still wear the natural one at home, but I don’t want the other boys to make fun of me at school.”

So right there, in the middle of Target, I had an I-really-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing mom moment.

Balancing on the one hand, wanting to protect my kids from chemicals and do the best I can to raise them in a healthy environment. On the other hand, concern about my son, off to a new school where very few of his friends are going – off to the world of Jr. High, and changing for P.E. and tall boys who look closer to men than to anything resembling my son.

Ultimately I said “Yes, let’s pick out some regular deodorant to put in your locker.” I cringed and he smiled.

At the end of our shopping trip, Emma said “Mom, we’ll load everything on the check-out counter. Don’t worry. We got this.” And Ellis smiled. And I got suspicious.

As I glanced over, I saw that they had conspired to hide a big bottle of Dr. Pepper under our items when I wasn’t looking. I picked it up and handed it right back to them. They knew it wasn’t going to happen. But they got a good laugh out of it and so did I.

So I admit, sometimes I’m not a very good “green mom”. I let them get the turquoise binder, and the regular deodorant, and the giant container of colored pens that they really don’t need. But I do know that I am a good mom – and Jr. High will require some balance and compromise on both sides. Peer pressure will be powerful, but I hope that I’ve said things enough times in enough different ways, that they will remember my words later, in the key moments when they need to make good decisions.

Well, that and I made them put back the Dr. Pepper.


Take the OC Fair Express and Save

If you are headed to the Orange County Fair this summer, consider doing something we don’t normally do here in Orange County – take the bus!

We did. It’s super easy and convenient, reduces traffic congestion and emissions, and is a good experience for the kids too.

You can catch the OC Fair Express any Friday, Saturday and Sunday until the fair ends on August 11th. The OC Fair Express provides direct bus service to and from the fair for just $2 each way from any one of eight locations: Fullerton, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Tustin, Laguna Hills, Irvine, and the Junipero Serra Park and Ride location. For route maps and schedule for all these locations, click here.

Tip: Make sure you have exact change for your fare to the fair.

I didn’t read the fine print (“have exact change ready”), so I had to dig around my purse for ones and quarters. I still didn’t have enough, but some nice fellow-rider kindly gave me the 75 cents I was short so the kids and I could board the bus and get to the fair. I love Orange County!

You can also take the Metrolink to the Anaheim Canyon, Santa Ana or Irvine Metrolink Station and connect with OCTA’s OC Fair Express. Just show your valid Metrolink ticket for a FREE ride to the OC Fair. The non-stop bus will drop you off in front of the Fair’s yellow gate.

Best of all, both OC Express and Metrolink customers receive a coupon good for $3 Fair Admission—that’s up to $8 off for each admission! So skip traffic, save on parking and get discounted admission with the OC Fair Express!

Once you are there, relax. Your ride back home will be waiting for you right outside the gates – no fighting to get out of the parking lot. Only downside – no long trek to your car at the back of the parking lot to walk off all that fair food you just ate. But that’s okay. That’s what tomorrow is for right?

Enjoy the fair!

The Game, Girl-Time, Giveaways and Green

When I announced a couple weeks ago to my kids that I was attending an Angels game later that night, they looked at me puzzled. “You mean, just you are going? Without us and even without Dad?” they asked.

“Yep, without you and without Dad. Just me and some friends.”

After the kids recovered from shock, I headed off (for the first time ever to a game without my family) to meet one of my favorite Angels fans and fellow OC Family blogger Jenelyn. She introduced me to Ellen Bell, and Lana Waggoner, who were also guests that night of The Smile Generation, a big supporter of The Angels Foundation.

We headed into Angels Stadium, excited for the game and especially excited because it was Mike Trout hat night.

It was a close game. We thought the Angels were going to pull it off when they tied it up in the eighth inning, but sadly, ended with another loss.

Clearly, I’m no sports writer – for a much better review of this game and the Angels season as a whole, check out Jenelyn’s Rally Monkey Mom blog here at OC Family.

Although the Angels did not win, I still left the game with a big smile on my face. I got to spend some much needed girl-time with some really cool people and talk about family, kids, writing, and of course, Angels baseball. I met Ellen, who is about the cutest person ever, and Lana, who had me cracking up all night. I also was able to spend time with Jenelyn, who is just so genuinely nice, and one of my favorite people.

It isn’t always about the win, but about enjoying the game. Any trip to the Big A is a good day in my book.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Angels recent winning streak doesn’t have me smiling too.

A “green mom” note:

Although I wore my Trout hat proudly throughout the game – and made many of my Facebook friends jealous with my score of this novelty item – I had to ignore the voice in my head that said, “this is probably made in a sweatshop in China from petroleum-based material and I’ll  never wear it again”. Yes, these are the things that run through my head daily. Sad I know.

But hey, at least it didn’t come wrapped in a plastic bag. It’s the small victories.

The Mike Trout hat (which now resides in my husband’s man-cave) and other giveaways make the season fun and put a smile on kids’ faces – or even adults in this case. I further justified, that I can offset all that petroleum-based material and sweatshop labor by making the Angels game a bit greener in other ways, like:

Taking the Metrolink Angels Express to the game instead of driving.

Greening my peanuts and beer – my two ballpark staples. Better and cheaper than buying at the park, I usually bring my own peanuts. I buy them in bulk, fill up a reusable plastic container and toss them in my Angels bag (another giveaway – and a useful one) for the game. For beer, I try to choose beers served in aluminum cans over those in a plastic cup – then make sure I recycle the cans in the recycling bins at the stadium or at home.

Better snacking – for healthier more sustainable ballpark snacks, there is Melissa’s Fresh to You (located at 1st and 3rd base Food Courts, sections 204, 317, 334 and 417) featuring healthy wraps, salads, fruit cups, hummus and pita chips, gluten-free hot dogs, and gluten-free beer. You can also bring your own healthy snacks to the game – eat better, save money.

I’m still waiting for Major League Baseball to give the okay to bring my Klean Kanteen to the game, but I understand why they don’t. For now, they do allow you to bring your own bottled water as long as it is “store bought” clear plastic bottle and no larger than 1 Liter. Make sure you recycle those plastic bottles too!

Thank you so much to the Smile Generation for hosting us that night, for their support of the Angels Baseball Foundation, and for putting a smile on my face.


Recycling School Supplies

School’s out for summer! My kids finally get out of school today! It feels like we are literally the last people to begin summer, and the past couple of weeks have been a crawl to the finish line. We have been on total countdown to summer.

Now that school is out and it’s time for summer, it’s time to do something with all the old school supplies lingering in desks and backpacks. But before you toss them in the trash, here are some things that can be reused or recycled:

BackpacksThe American Birding Association accepts backpacks in usable condition for reuse, for scientists to carry their gear in on birding expeditions. Just think, your child’s backpack can go from schlepping lunches and binders around elementary school to holding supplies for tracking exotic birds in the tropics. How cool is that?

Binders – bring those old three-ring binders into your nearest Staples store, and not only will they be recycled, but you will also get a coupon for $2 off a new binder.

Books – If they can’t be donated, paperback books can be tossed in your recycling bin. Hardcover books need to have the cover removed, then the paper can be recycled.

Clothing – of course if it’s usable, donate it to your local charitable organization. For stained, ripped, or otherwise unusable clothing, recycle it at your local H&M store. As part of their garment recycling program, you get a coupon for 15% off one item for each bag of clothing you turn in for recycling.

Crayons – You can recycle broken or unusable crayons through the Crazy Crayons recycling campaign. Check out this page for details and shipping address for the crayons.

Glue – all bottles marked with a #1 or #2 triangle on the bottom are recyclable. For glue sticks that require a special type of recycling, consider encouraging your classroom to participate in the Elmer’s Glue Crew recycling program, where classrooms collect and return glue bottles to Elmer’s for recycling, and in turn receive 2 cents donated to the classroom for each bottle returned.

Paper – of course you know you can recycle paper, but what about those crafts and other handmade items your kids come home with. Here are some general tips:

OK to recycle – You can recycle stapled paper, colored paper, paper with ink, post-it notes with pressure sensitive adhesive, file folders, pendaflex folders (remove metal rod first) and most spiral bound notebooks (just remove the cover if it is plastic and toss in the rest – the recycling machinery will pull out the metal spiral during the recycling process).

Not recyclable – Painted paper; waxed, coated or laminated paper; paper contaminated with food waste; paper with stickers or tape – though you can remove the sticker or tape and recycle the paper.

Plastics – any plastic item (pencil boxes, pens, water bottles, lunch containers) that has a number in a triangle at the bottom can be recycled. If you are a Waste Management customer in Orange County, you can toss all of these numbered plastics in your curbside collection bin.

At a minimum, set aside usable items and reuse them next school year – don’t throw out those half glue sticks and crayons…use them next year. If you really must buy new, donate your old supplies to your local school or charity. Or, like this creative Nevada teen did, start a school supply recycling campaign.

With a little time and effort, you can ensure that this year’s school supplies don’t become next year’s landfill waste.

And then, go out and enjoy the beach. Cheers to summer!