AUTUMN SPICED ICED TEA

This post is sponsored by Gold Peak Tea.

I recently shared with you what home feels like to me, and I mentioned that sharing good food and drink with friends and family is essential. I really enjoy drinking iced tea (a love that I picked up while living in Houston).  So, I'm happy to share a yummy fall iced tea recipe using Gold Peak Tea that I think will not only make you feel at home, but make you feel like you are drinking fall sip by sip. 

AUTUMN SPICED ICED TEA

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4-6

 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup apple juice

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 orange, cut in half

1 cinnamon sticks (+ 4-6 for garnish)

2 whole star anise (+4-6 for garnish)

4 whole cloves

1.8 qt bottle Gold Peak Unsweetened Tea

Method:

Pour water & apple juice into a small sauce pot. Add sugar and whisk to dissolve. Take one half of orange and peel two long pieces of rind.  Slice other orange half into half moons and set aside. Place orange rind, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 whole star anise, and 4 whole cloves into sugar mixture. Place over medium high heat, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove spiced simple syrup from heat and strain into a bowl. Let cool for 20-30 minutes, or chill over night.

Pour spiced simple syrup into a large pitcher, and pour a (1.8qt) bottle of Gold Peak Unsweetened Tea into the pitcher. Mix tea and simple syrup together with a spoon or whisk. Feel free to add more or less syrup to your desired taste. Then pour spiced tea into ice filled glasses, and garnish with an orange slice, cinnamon stick, and star anise.

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If you're entertaining, consider pouring the iced tea into pretty copper mugs like these that were designed by my friend Katie, and garnish with a cinnamon stick, orange rind or star of anise. I particularly love that the mugs say "gather" on them. It's a word we often use around Thanksgiving time, but it applies to anytime we're at home sharing good food and drink with friends.

Gold Peak Tea would love to hear what home feels like to you too! You can go enter their contest to win a trip back home and a custom experience while you're there. The deadline for entries is September 1st, 2016. Run, don't walk!

Photos by Rennai Hoefer, Recipe by Brendan McCaskey, Styled by Alex Evjen

FALL MUST HAVE BOOTS

This post is sponsored by Zappos and LuckyBrand. 

When fall fashion season starts I do a little happy dance because that means it's boot wearin' time! As excited I get to buy new fall shoes, I hate the process of shoe shopping. It's frustrating for size 10, narrow, flat footed people. So, I do all of my shoe shopping online with Zappos now. It's fast, easy and the online reviews help so much in determining what size is best. In fact, I've teamed up with Zappos and LuckyBrand to share with you my favorite picks and how I style them on the daily. 

Not only have I learned to shop exclusively online for shoes, but I've learned to stick with a couple tried and true brands that I know fit me well. Comfort is just as high of a priority as style to me, so LuckyBrand is a go-to for me. Their leather quality is wonderful and their styles always match my west coast easy style.

I have several booties in my shoe collection already, but I just can't resist buying a black and brown pair each year. This year I chose black leather booties with a slightly pointed toe (Eesa style) and toffee colored suede wedge booties (Yamina style). 

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My daily outfits no matter if it's during the week or weekend usually involve some kind of denim and simple color palettes. I just spoke at Say Hi Society about Pinterest, and I wore my gray blazer, jeans, a black t-shirt and these Eesa boots. I felt comfortable and confident the whole time. 

I'm also loving head to toe blue these days. Blue hues are a huge color trend for fall. Though I don't mind mixing black and navy, brown just complements blue so well and gives that fall vibe you can't miss. The Yamina style is great for miles of walking because the wedge style is supportive for your feet. I've been wearing them while I play with the kids, shop and work, and I love that the suede material makes them wearable well into the spring. 

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If you're in the market for new boots definitely give these a try. You can easily purchase them on Zappos with free shipping and easy free returns. They come in just 3-5 business days too! Let me know what you think!

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

PINTEREST LOOK FOR LESS

While the rest of the country will be breaking out their sweaters soon, us South-westerners have quite some time to wait until we can fully pile on the fall layers. (Although I do keep a denim jacket or light cardigan on hand most days because Arizona AC can be quite chilly.) For now, you can catch me continuing to wear summer dresses and sandals, not unlike the ensemble in this awesome pin. Slip dresses are a huge trend at the moment, and I love the idea of dressing down the sexiness of a nightwear inspired piece like this with denim and good ol' Birkenstocks. This slip would also look cute layered over a fitted ringer tee for another dressed down approach. 

TAKE ME HOME

This post is sponsored by Gold Peak Tea.

When people ask me where I'm from I don't ever know how to answer them because I've lived in four different states (California, Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona). I usually just tell people I'm from all over. So, the word "home" is not so much a place as it is a feeling. Gold Peak Tea invited me to to share with you what feels like home to me as part of their Take Me Home Contest where one lucky winner will win a trip and a custom experience that takes them home (hurry, deadline ends September 1st, 2016). 

To me, home feels like sunshine, warm breezes, snuggles with my kids, belly laughs, and sharing food and drink accompanied by good conversation with my friends and family. Home always feels comfortable, warm and easy. 

Holidays are often moments in time that we remember most because we are with family and friends. They can also feel stressful, which is the antithesis of what I want my home to feel like. So, easy entertaining is key. I wanted to share with you some "friends-giving" inspiration that's simple and easy and that showcases memories of my home growing up and my own home in Arizona.

Being an only child, our holidays were always spent with friends, especially when we lived in Texas. You could say we were doing "friends-giving" long before it was popular. Each year you could count on four things to be there: turkey, sweet potatoes, pecan pie and tea. Everyone always brought a dish instead of the host preparing the whole meal, but if you are going to do the whole thing here are some tips. 

Keep your place settings simple. White plates, classic linen napkins and a low key centerpiece. I simply placed a bundle of wheat in the middle of the table with some tea-lights. I also picked an accent color of coper to keep the palette warm and contrast with my blue rug. 

Make your dishes ahead of time. We did a turkey breast in the crock pot, stuffing in muffin tins (you can prep before), green beens lightly roasted (such a fast way to do it), potatoes scalloped instead of mashed (you can prep it before), pecan pies and galettes made in advance. 

There's nothing like eating a big meal and washing it down with some ice cold tea. Instead of having to brew it, you can count on Gold Peak Tea to give you the perfect, at-home taste. A lot of people like to add lemon or peaches to their tea. Instead, we add apple and citrus to the tea with cinnamon and star of anise to make it taste like fall. Stay tuned for the delicious recipe, and you can thank me later for giving you fall in a cup. 

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Thanksgiving always started at dinner time in our house and went late into the night. The adults would sit at the table for hours talking and drinking, and us kids would go play and until it was time for dessert and eat second helpings of pie. 

That's what we do at our house. Foods change here and there, but I know our kids will have fond memories of this. Heck, even our dog loves the holidays. 

I'd love to hear what feels like home to you too! Please share in the comments below, and also be sure to enter the Gold Peak Tea contest too to win a trip home. The deadline for entries is September 1st, 2016. Stay tuned for some delicious recipes. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer; Food by Brendan McCaskey, Styled by Alex Evjen, Copper cups designed by Katie Sterbenz

REAL TALK REAL MOMS ON COMPARISON

We all know the quote, "Comparison kills joy," but comparison is often painted in this light that the struggle with it is completely within our control and our own responsibility. Though our thoughts can absolutely be the culprit of comparison, there have been moments when moms have compared me to themselves resulting in passing judgement for our differences. I'm not talking about overt shaming, but rather a covert kind of shame that comes with the best intentions but hurts just as much.

For example, here is a sentence that seems good, but rather, is an act of comparison with a potential to hurt moms. "If I can do it, you can do it." Though that sentence can be meant to encourage someone, the person saying it is comparing the other person to themselves and telling them they can do something when sometimes the truth is that the other person can't do it or doesn't want to. And often what follows after that sentence is uttered is judgement and shame even if they don't say it out loud.

Whatever it is (breastfeeding, sleep training, exercising, working, cooking, childcare, etc.) most moms tackle parenting challenges in the best way they can and it looks different for everyone. I tried SO HARD both times at breastfeeding, and I've been met with, "If I can do it, you can do it; Just keep trying, you will get it. It's best for your baby; I didn't have any problems with it at all, you're probably not doing it right." Yucky, right? Have you been there? Or maybe it's the challenge of sleep deprivation....Have you ever said, "I'm so tired. My baby was up twice last night," only to be met with, "That's nothin'! My baby was up three times last night and hasn't slept through the night for over a year now." This idea of one-upping another mom by how much we can handle or do for our kids and shaming others who complain about their hardships isn't okay.

There are no gold, silver or bronze medals for moms. We're all gold medal winners if we are doing the best that we can to take care of our families. To some, the best means baking everything from scratch, having a home cooked meal on the table every night and homeschooling. That's so awesome! Who wouldn't love those things?! For me, the best means hugs and kisses whenever I can get them, reading a book to the kids before bed, and donuts after dance class. Again, what kid doesn't love that too?

I bottle fed my kids, I let them eat Cheetos, I let them watch television, I have a nanny, I order takeout some nights, I let my daughter wear lipstick, my kids wear hand-me-downs most of the time, sometimes I forget to brush their teeth, I don't DIY anything. These aren't bad things or parenting fails. Where did we get this idea that they were? If you craft stuff, bake stuff, eat only organic and are able to do it all without childcare that's so great! I love that! But at the end of the day, that doesn't make someone a better mom than me or the mom that buys store bought cupcakes and works full-time. Kids aren't necessarily better kids because of that either.

We are doing our jobs as moms when our kids are told they are loved, their needs are met, and they are able to learn and grow with joy. There must be equality within motherhood, and we must stop comparing ourselves. To read more on this topic of comparison from other amazing, real moms be sure to check out the posts below:

A Daily Something; Cloistered Away; Design for Mankind; Parker Etc., The Life Styled; The Refined Woman; Sacramento StreetThe Effortless ChicCould I Have That; Sarah Sherman Samuel; Sugar & Charm

Photos by Sarah Waggoner; kids outfits from Carter's