Strong Women Series: Lauren Greeno on Setting The Perfect Turkey Day Table

I’m beyond pleased to feature this fantastic new mama, one of my college besties, Lauren Greeno, on this #WCW. After years planning galas for the rich and famous, she has decided to create her own event production business to get more flexibility to be with her insanely adorable little dude. Who better to give us some inspiration for setting that Thanksgiving table than this fab WAHM?? Here she is! -xoxo, Annie

Hi, I’m Lauren, mama to this little guy

and founder of an up and coming event production company (my other baby!) In all fairness, my baby boy is the inspiration behind starting my own company. I wanted to spend more time with him while also doing what I love. Now that he’s on a more predictable sleep schedule, I can devote some of his precious nap time to creating my own business and with a little help from Annie, I’m bringing you some holiday hosting inspiration from our home to yours.

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving (isn’t it everyone’s?!) So here is a little a peek into how I’ll be setting up my dinner table for Thanksgiving (including some kid friendly tips) that you can adopt for your upcoming Thanksgiving and/or Friendsgiving festivities.​​

 

My inspiration for this tablescape is all things fall, from autumnal leaves, pumpkins and gourds, to cranberries and warm colors like gold and bronze. First things first, I layout my place mats to not only plan for the number of guests attending, but also to have a clear placement for my centerpiece which, in this case, happens to be quite detailed but easy to put together. I love these place mats because they’re intricate with great texture, pop against my concrete table, and although they are gold, are quite neutral and can be used all year round with numerous color schemes.  

After laying out my place mats which took up the most real estate on my table, I started on my center piece. Remember, centerpieces don’t have to be just flowers or a decorative piece. I love to have numerous elements that add a cozy and fun feel to my events and dinners. I start by hand placing the leaves. Since LA doesn’t exactly have a “true” fall, I purchased a set of leaves to get started.  

​If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where the leaves have changed colors, feel free to pick your own leaves and utilize them as decoration either on the table itself but scattering and arranging the various color leaves, in a large vase or as place cards by writing guests names on them and placing them on the plate.  

Next, it’s time to start layering on your centerpiece. I purchased these cute mini pumpkins and gourds from Trader Joes.

When I was at the pumpkin patch with my son in October picking out our Halloween pumpkins, I was looking around for mini gourds to pull double duty for both Halloween and Thanksgiving, but didn’t have much luck finding small enough ones. This would be a great way to recycle pumpkins from Halloween that aren’t decorated or carved, so try to purchase them all together or look for a great after Halloween sale. You can get creative on placement of the pumpkins and gourds, spread them out, lean smaller ones against larger ones, have some colorful bunches as well as some white pumpkins that give you different dimensions against the colorful leaves on the table.

The next step is to layer on fun, decorative pieces. I started with this bowl set that comes in two sizes. I am utilizing the larger bowl to house some dried cranberries, and the smaller one to add various heights. You can even add some sparkle by adding a gold beaded necklace to it that adds some fun and flare to the table.

I started working on each place setting by setting down glasses and plates to make sure I had enough room for the basic dinner necessities before adding more elements onto the centerpiece.

I love a beautiful charger, but I don’t think I know more than one young adult that has them… so I don’t use them often. And now, as a mom who will end up doing dishes, I definitely am not using them this year. You can create a beautiful table without them and utilize the dishes you have, especially when your main focus is the centerpiece and unique plates. So, I used my everyday dinner plates, topped them with the ever popular thankful plates (that are also on sale – yes!) and used my fancier cloth napkins that are similar to place mats, are gold, but neutral enough to use for numerous color schemes and go really well with the grey of the table.

I purchased two types of napkin rings: a leaf ring (that I ultimately felt clashed with my leaf motif in the centerpiece), and a set of gold napkin rings that added some texture, volume and much needed sparkle to the table.

Now for the fun stuff! Flooooowers! I first layout where I want to put my floral arrangements. On this table, I am using four square, gold vases and two clear circular vases of the same height from my personal vase collection. Keep in mind, if socializing and conversation are going to be a large part of your entertaining plans, make sure vases, floral arrangements and candles are a bit lower to ensure people can see and speak across the table to one another. I added clear votives, but larger cylinders or vases with dried cranberries poured around candles can also work well to add a decorative flare.

You can purchase flowers already bundled into a bouquet and cut them to size or buy individual flower sets and create your own, as I did.

My flower haul from Whole Foods – a mix of individual types of flowers and two premade bouquets

Both are great and fairly easy to do. For the clear vases, a few tips and tricks to make sure your arrangement looks as beautiful on top as the stems do in the vase:

  • Build and arrange your florals in your hand, outside of the vase first (unless you’re taping off sections on the vase for flowers as seen on professional floral arrangements). But have a few flowers and/or leaves left over to add once you’re done in case you need to add any fillers to gaps and holes in your arrangement.
  • Once you’re happy with your arrangement, tie or rubber band the stems to keep them in place.
  • Make sure your stems are arranged in a fanned out pattern so they look good in the vase. Another alternative is to purchase large leaves to wrap inside of the vase so you don’t see your stems at all.
  • Measure your arrangement and cut stems at an angle to fit into your vase. Cut stems one at a time (I know it’s tempting to cut a bunch at one time, but the stems look better cut individually and not hacked as you’re trying to saw through alot of stems).
  • Cut off the rubber band or tie before setting them in water. I like my flower tops to be right on top of the vase, but you can always add height by keeping your stems a little longer.
  • Add those left over flowers or leaves to fill any holes and gaps you may have and enjoy!

The last step is lighting the candles – I do so about an hour before guest arrive so the wax has some time to melt, channel the dripping candelabras from Beauty and Beast. Add wine, and you’re celebrating!

And if you have little ones in attendance, here are some great ways to make their table as fun and festive as the grown-ups table!

Kid friendly ideas:

  • I love these turkey place mats because they are festive and fun. You can personalize them and use them as seating assignments by using wine markers to add guest’s names. If the kiddos are a little older, you can leave these markers on the table as an opportunity to write down what they are thankful for (and thankfully for the adults, they wash off easily!)
  • Another place card option – these little turkey place cards that are super cute and can be used for either the kids or the adult table.
  • And to keep those kiddos entertained while food is finishing up, these DIY turkey masks come in a pack of 8, easy to assemble, and you can purchase additional fun decorative elements like feathers, felt balls, etc. to add to the fun.

Now that you have a beautiful table, all that is left is family, friends and most importantly, the food! Happy entertaining!

-Lauren

 

Favorite Real Thanksgiving Recipes

Now that the candy-comas of Halloween are behind us, let’s look ahead to the real reason to get excited for the Holidays…….FOOD! In case you are as surprised at how fast November is flying as we are, Thanksgiving is THIS THURSDAY! While everyone is gearing up with their elastic waistbands and carving knives for what will hopefully be a wonderful day of fun, food, family, and football, we are excited to share some of our favorite Thanksgiving Day Recipes to spice up your menu this year! Don’t forget – maternity pants make excellent “maturkey” pants – break those suckers out and enjoy.

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The Best Brines for the Main Event

Let’s start with the basics. Nothing will up-level your turkey easier than doing a little brine-action. Here are two of our all-time favorites. Bon Appetit’s simple and stunning dry salt brine for the modern chef, and a classic wet brine recipe from Alton Brown for the traditionalist.

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Dry-Rubbed Roast Turkey, Christiana

This recipe IS the picture-perfect roast turkey you’ve been looking for (your whole life). It cooks to a perfect crisp brown on the outside and remains juicy and flavorful on the inside. The best part is you don’t have to run out for any special ingredients. You can cook this with literally just the salt and sugar brine come up a winner. The glaze adds a delicious complexity of flavors as well. We also stuff the cavity with lemon and a bundle of whatever fresh herbs we have on hand.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 12–14-lb. turkey, neck reserved for gravy, giblets discarded, patted dry
  • 12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 2×1″ strips orange zest

To Make:

  1. Mix salt and brown sugar together in a medium bowl using your fingers until incorporated. Place turkey on a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle dry brine all over outside and inside of the turkey, and nudging some into crevices. You won’t need all of the dry brine, but it’s good to have extra since some of it will end up on the baking sheet as you season the turkey. Chill turkey, uncovered, at least 12 hours and up to 2 days. We load a large cooler with LOTS of ice. DO NOT let it get warm or you’ll be remembered as the grinch who food-poisoned the family.
  2. Remove turkey from wire rack and rinse baking sheet and rack if needed (turkey will most likely release some liquid onto pan). Line baking sheet with 3 layers of foil and set rack back inside. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack and tuck wings underneath. Let turkey sit at room temperature 2–3 hours.
  3. Place an oven rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°. Using your fingers, loosen skin on breast. Work 4 Tbsp. butter under skin, spreading evenly over both breasts. Smear outside of turkey with another 4 Tbsp. butter.
  4. Roast turkey, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is mostly golden brown all over, about 30 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, cook vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, garlic, orange zest, and remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep glaze warm.

  6. Reduce oven temperature to 300° and continue to roast turkey, brushing with glaze every 30 minutes and adding more water by ½-cupfuls as needed to maintain some liquid in baking sheet, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast near the neck registers 150° (don’t worry; the temperature will continue to climb while the bird rests), 65–85 minutes longer. Skin should be deep golden brown, shiny, and crisp. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before carving.

Recipe by Andy Baraghani

chicken close up dish food

Traditional Turkey Brine, Kristy

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon vegetable broth, homemade or canned. I prefer to use homemade or
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped

To Make:

Combine the broth, salt, sugar, peppercorns, allspice, and ginger in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate the brine. I usually like to add a little herb bundle combination such as Rosemary, Thyme, and Spicy Oregano to the broth. You can also add some dry white wine to replace the sugar!

Place a 14-16lb turkey in a brining bag or large plastic bag. Make sure the entire thawed bird is immersed in liquid and brine for 24 hours.

This liquid also makes for an AWESOME basting fluid as the bird cooks. You can rinse the bird and then cook any way you wish – bag it, baste it, or grill it. Add more wine as needed to keep volume of basting liquid up. Super flavorful and very easy!

Fave Sides

Turkey tends to get all the spotlight on Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest, your dinner is nothing without some stellar sides. Here are a few of our time-tested favorites from stuffing to veggies (yes you can eat them on holidays!) and beyond.

CornBread and Sausage Stuffing, Kristy

fc67sm002-04-main.jpgPhoto credit: Fine Cooking.com

This recipe is so savory and sweet at the same time, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it! I get this recipe straight from Fine Cooking Magazine’s killer Spicy Thanksgiving Feast Menu.

I typically make the cornbread from scratch and leave it out to dry up overnight for that very perfect consistency to create moist, yet not MUSHY stuffing.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb sweet Italian Sausage (w/out casing), cut into chunks
  • 3-4 Tbs. rendered bacon fat or butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery, including leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped red and green bell pepper (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Basic Cornbread crumbled (feel free to use a mix!)
  • 1 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Turkey stock or homemade or low-salt chicken broth as needed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

I am a big fan of this recipe, so I typically double the batch in order to have some cook outside the turkey as well.

To Make:

Up to 3 days before: Prep cornbread and leave out overnight to dry out. Crumble up. Store until ready.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add enough rendered bacon fat or butter to the pan to get about 5 Tbs. total fat. Add the onion, celery, peppers, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook briefly until the onion is softened. I will pour about 1/4 cup of white wine in the pan here and scrape up any browned bits in the pan. Combine in a large bowl with the crumbled cornbread, scallions, parsley, chives, and pepper. Toss to combine. 

(If cooking in a turkey, put the stuffing in the bird just before roasting. Pack the stuffing loosely, leaving enough room to fit your whole extended hand into the bird’s cavity. Cook the stuffing in the bird to 160º to 165ºF, checking with an instant-read thermometer. If the bird is done before the stuffing is, take the bird out of the oven, spoon the stuffing into a casserole dish, and continue to bake it while the turkey rests.)

If baking some or all of the stuffing in a casserole, pour a cup or two of stock over the stuffing to replace the juices the stuffing would have absorbed from the bird. If you want to be “extra” pick up some turkey wings in addition to your bird and place over the top to drip juices into it. Bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking. I usually add some pads of butter here as well, for some extra flavor as the top is roasting.

Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Christiana

green round vegetables

Feel like you need some greens to balance out all that turkey and stuffing? Us too, us too. But let’s be real, with all the activity in the kitchen, we like to keep our veggies easy-peasy on Thanksgiving Day. Luckily, harnessing the delicious, nutty flavor of Brussels sprouts requires very little effort. Even better, if you prep and slice the sprouts ahead of time, this dish can be in and out of the oven in 35-45 minutes, which also happens to be the perfect amount of time for your turkey to rest before serving. Boom-shakalaka.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package or about 1.5 lbs Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tsp or more good kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp or more fresh ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp oil of your choice (use bacon grease if you have it!)

To Make:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim and halve Brussels sprouts, pulling off any loose or browning leaves.
  2. Prepare a sheet pan with oil of your choice and spread Brussel Sprouts evenly in a single layer. Toss with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 35-45 minutes until outer leaves are crispy and golden to medium brown.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot!

Sweet Potatoes In Orange Cups (Plus Cocktail), Annie

potatoes cutting board wooden cooking
Photo by Ela Haney on Pexels.com

These are a bit labor intensive so usually one I bring if I’m not the host. They transport well and are impressive and reliably delicious! You’ll end up with a whole bunch of orange innards that you can utilize to make a fantastic light pre-dinner cocktail or mimosas for morning after. Makes 8 servings, modified from recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs – about 7 large sweet potatoes (orange for traditional, white/Japanese if you wanna be fancy)
  • 4 large oranges
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (or 1/2 C coconut oil for dairy-free)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice (reserve the rest for cocktail)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 cup coconut cream for dairy-free)
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To Make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest until just cool enough to handle.
  2. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Make the orange cups by cutting the oranges in half around equator and scooping out the pulp, leaving only the shell. Set aside.
  3. Peel the potatoes and put into a large bowl. Discard the skins and any tough, stringy fibers. Add the butter, and with an electric mixer, beat out the lumps. Add the 1/4 C sugar, eggs, orange juice, heavy cream, and brandy, and mix until smooth. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix well. Re-season with salt, more sugar or more spice to taste.
  4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the orange cups, mounding and smoothing the top. Bake until puffed and slightly golden, about 20 minutes. For an indulgent, fun “traditional” spin, top with mini-marshmallows and broil or torch to brown.

The Grand Finale

Perfect Pie Crust, Annie

person holding knife and fork cutting slice of pie on brown wooden table
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

To me, Thanksgiving means homemade pie. I mean, after all the gratitude, etc… of course. I could happily do the whole holiday without a turkey, mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce altogether. Know that if you come to my house with a store-bought pie on this special day, you will be turned away at the door. jk. I’m not that crazy. I will throw that sh*t straight in the trash when you’re not looking though.

Having grown up in a home with amazing cooks who didn’t really do any baking, I went through a LOT of trial and error learning to make pie, and specifically pie crust. SO easy to mess up and end up with a gooey or dry crumbly mess. SO hard to get reliable, flaky, pretty results. It wasn’t until America’s Test Kitchen went and got super nerdy on the process that I found a perfect recipe that is ultra-easy AND reliable. It is not healthy, like, at all. If that’s your goal, skip pie. Here it is. Works with any filling you desire. Go forth and be thankful. Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.

Ingredients (makes 1 crust):

  • 1 1/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour – DIVIDED to 3/4 C and 1/2 C (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 6 TBS cold, unsalted butter cut up into ~8 pieces
  • 1/4 C cold vegetable shortening, cut up
  • 2 TBS cold vodka or 1.5 TBS vodka and 1/2 TBS alcohol based vanilla extract
  • 2 TBS ice-cold water
  • Optional (spices, citrus zest…)

To Make:

  1. Process 3/4 C of the flour (NOT ALL OF IT), salt, sugar and spices if using in food processor a few times till mixed
  2. Open lid, sprinkle butter and shortening around the top. Close, process ~ 10 seconds until it resembles cottage cheese. Open up, scrape down sides.
  3. Add remaining 1/2 C flour and pulse until evenly distributed and dough is broken up. Usually 4-6 pulses. Empty into a cool dry bowl.
  4. Sprinkle water + vodka over the top and fold in with rubber spatula until dough is tacky and sticks together.
  5. Flatten into 4″ disc onto piece of saran wrap or wax paper and refrigerate AT LEAST 45 minutes.
  6. Take out, let come to temperature and roll out on some more flour to desired size. Put in pan and trim – enjoy bites of boozy dough from the edges 😉

The Lazy Gal’s Dessert, Margo

Image result for oreo trifle

This dessert is 100% easy and 100% delicious. It’s my go-to and is always a hit!

Ingredients:

  • Oreos – 1 package, crushed (this part is fun for kids – throw ’em in a double layer of gallon baggies and let them go to town smashing them)
  • 1 boxes Chocolate pudding mix, prepared as directed
  • 1 tub Cool whip or other whipped cream

To Make:

  1. Layer as follows: 1/2 crushed Oreos, 1/2 pudding, 1/2 whipped cream, 1/2 pudding, 1/2 whipped cream, 1/2 Oreos into trifle bowl or whatever you got that’s glass to show off the layers.
  2. Chill. Serve.

The Bevs

Orange Cardamom Sparkling Cocktail, Annie

For the rest of the orange juice from above or fresh squeezed orange juice from whatever else… adapted from this recipe by the awesome Gabriella. 

sliced lemons

Vanilla-Cardamom Simple syrup: bring 3/4 C granulated sugar, 1 C water, large pinch ground cardamom or a few cracked cardamom pods and a split vanilla bean just to a boil then take off heat until cool.

Cocktail: Shake 1 part cooled syrup + 2 parts fresh orange juice with ice. Pour into champagne glass, top with 2 parts dry sparking wine such as Brut or Blanc de Noirs. Garnish with orange slice if desired.

Wine, Margo

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I may not be known for my cooking, but my company and my ability to bring beverages is unparalleled!

Ingredients:

  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Rose wine

To Make:

  1. Open bottles
  2. Pour in glasses
  3. Enjoy food, drink, and conversation with wonderful people. Ignore the rest.

 

xoxoxo,

Christiana, Kristy, Annie, and Margo – who are all grateful for YOU!

DIY Window Herb Garden

Each year, as the seasons turn colder, my inner chef-gardener-foodie laments for the end of our herb garden’s harvest and the  flavors and health benefits it brings to our kitchen. “Ciao fresh basil Caprese, adios fresh cilantro pico de gallo, and au revoir fresh tarragon chicken…”

I jest, but really, there are countless, not to mention delicious, benefits to cooking (or heck, bartending!) with fresh herbs. Health benefits of common herbs such as basil, oregano, mint, and rosemary include (but certainly are not limited to): anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties (not sure if mojitos count here, but whatever), digestive and immune system boosters, anti-aging properties and more.*

Simply put, fresh herbs are delicious and medicinal.

food on white background

Surrre you can buy the little pre-packaged herbs in the produce aisle, but it’s not the same! When I wander out to the garden to clip and gather fresh herbs, I full on am feeling like this in my mind…

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I love you, Whole Foods. But you can’t make me feel like Claire…

… ok, minus time travel and castles and such, I suppose. (A girl can dream!) But you get my point. Growing my own herbs makes me feel good. I also like knowing where my food comes from (as much as I can) and being able to whip up recipes on a whim (read: without having to go to the store to buy ingredients.)

But, not all of us live in a climate or space that permits a four-season outdoor edible garden.  So, what to do?

Of course, in my dream home, I will have a charming vintage greenhouse filled with fragrant edibles (and cute kids minding my plants, of course) a la Magnolia Farms all year long. But for now, I am already weeks into the freezing “crisp” New England fall and the “yard” at our current rental situation has more concrete than soil.

Greenhouse

So, I keep dreaming. But, I also don’t give upI don’t currently have a yard, or a greenhouse, but I DO happen to have a window. Not a particularly large or fancy one at the moment (read: rental), but any window will do. After scouring the internet, I found a style that I liked here and came up with my own super-simplified version of the project.

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Above is the HGTV version. Below on the left is the window I started with (oh hey, builder-basic-rental finishes!), and on the right is the super-simple window garden I created in 2 hours, for less than $20. True Story. (Oh, and that little roman shade is actually a no-sew-faux-roman-shade that I put together during the same 2 hour period.  That little tutorial is coming at you next week!) I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, and so far my herbs seem to be too.

SO, herein follows my quick, dirt cheap, and effective way to bring fresh herbs indoors for the urban, budget, minimalist, or cold weather gardener-chef-foodie in all of us. Time required (I promise you!) is less than 2 hours. I knocked this whole project out in one naptime, and my total expense was about $20 TOTAL dollars. Like, basically the price of one fancy-sandwich-shop-lunch. #worthit

DIY Window Herb Garden

Level: Beginner

Budget: $20.00

 

side view

Materials:

  • Small potted herbs
  • Small buckets with handles
  • Curtain rod
  • Spray paint
  • String/twine
  • Scissors
  • Drill (or screwdriver, in a pinch)

To Make:

  1. Gather your materials. I found these potted organic herbs at our local health food store for $3.99 each and the small metal buckets in the seasonal section of the nearest big-box store for a dollar each. (Think: Target dollar section, Wal-Mart, or the Dollar Store. I’m pretty sure they all stock the same loot.)
    bucket and herb
    Any type of bucket will do (even Halloween cats!) since spraypaint will cover the surface evenly.

    I also got a bargain-basement curtain rod for $7.99 and a couple cans of spray-paint at the same big-box store. I used twine and scissors I already had, and a drill from our tool-box.

  2. Spray your buckets. Using your color of choice, spray each bucket with 2+ coats of spray paint. Just make sure to select a paint that adheres well to the material of your buckets. Just about any multipurpose spray paint adheres to plastic and/or metal. I used Krylon Colormaster Brilliant Silver to match the chrome fixtures in our kitchen. (Note: I also tried a Rustoleum Rose Gold finish, because I love pretty much everything rose gold. But, I found that it was not as metallic as I would have liked, and didn’t dry completely smooth on the metal. Luckily, if you have a color mishap like mine, it’s easy to spray over the first color with your final choice once the first coat is dry.)
  3. Mount curtain rod. While your buckets are drying, select the height for your garden window.  I raised mine to about the halfway mark on our window’s bottom pane, where my plants will get a good dose of afternoon sun, and will not to restrict the window’s operation. Most curtain rods come with all the hardware you need, so once you’ve selected your height, just follow the instructions in your package.
  4. Re-pot plants or trim planters as needed. I chose not to re-pot my herbs because they happened to fit just right in the buckets I found (LUCK people, luck.) I also wanted to take advantage of the drainage holes already in the plastic planters the herbs were purchased in. (Note: If you choose to re-pot your herbs into your buckets you will need to drill drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets. Soil needs to drain, or plants will die!) I just trimmed the plastic lip off of the top of my plastic plant-liners so they would fit flush inside the buckets.

    herb pots
    Trim the pot-liners to create a more seamless look.
  5. Hang buckets. Using twine or string, tie the bucket handles to your curtain rod. I used a neutral string that was about the same color as the rod so the twine would kind of disappear. But a natural twine or rope would lend a nice rustic feel as well.

    tie
    Tie a simple knot to attach each bucket handle to the curtain rod with your twine or string.
  6. Water, eat, repeat! That’s it! Make sure your herbs get good sunshine, water daily, and trim regularly to encourage growth. That means get to work, chef!

Happy fresh, healthy, winter cooking and happy DIY’ing folks!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)

 

 

 

Sources

*Ellie Krieger, The Health Benefits of Herbs as published in The Washington Post

Supporting a Friend During Infertility

Infertility is a topic that will impact nearly all women in some way. Either yourself or someone you know will likely struggle with this – it affects 1 in every 10 women. For some women, it can feel unbearable to wait 6 months to get pregnant – others will wait years and spend thousands of dollars, undergoing invasive treatments to conceive. As more women wait until they’re a bit older to start trying to conceive, more struggle with this every day. As a physician, I am very well practiced at discussing the “medical” side of this when patients come into the office…. but as a friend? I still struggle to come up with the right things to say and do.

I reached out to one of my #WCW’s, Natalie Bushman, fellow mommy-blogger at Nat your average girl, for some help and am so happy to share her wisdom here. On her blog, she has shared her journey through new motherhood, then through secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after a successful natural pregnancy), the twin pregnancy that resulted from treatments and being a mom of 3 along with fabulous personal style and home decor posts.

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Total blogger crush on this cute fam!

She recently discovered they’ll be bringing baby #4 into the family (congrats!!!) and I asked her to give us some insight into being there for friends who are going through an infertility journey since she’s personally experienced this from multiple angles.

Thinking back to when you first got pregnant with Blair, did you have friends who were already dealing with infertility issues? How did you approach them with news of your pregnancy then?

I was one of the first people to get pregnant in my friend group and didn’t know anyone at the time experiencing infertility. Looking back though, I was so naive and it never even crossed my mind that I could have a hard time getting pregnant (even though my Mom struggled for years). I just assumed that since I was healthy with a regular cycle that it would be a cinch… and lucky for me it was the first time! I didn’t think twice about miscarriage or not seeing a heartbeat at the first appointment. Ignorance was bliss but oh how the tables have turned!
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Baby Blair, their 1st

I’m sure people had all kinds of responses when you were struggling to get pregnant the second time around. You’ve blogged about the things people should NOT say to couples. Did any friends or family members say things that were helpful and supportive?

Yes, my close friends were amazing. Honestly one of the best things to say is simply,
I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Is there anything I can do for you to help?
Totally basic but shows that you care even if you haven’t experienced infertility yourself. The other things that helped were when my friends would check in on me after they knew I had a big appointment. Or they would say, “Call me after your appointment. I want to hear what the doctor said.” Things like that. Things that you would say to anyone going through a hard time or health scare. It’s just about showing you care. Hearing that someone is praying for a specific need of mine also made me feel better. To know that I wasn’t forgotten.

How can people approach this with friends who they aren’t sure if they’re having fertility problems – do you think that’s different than how you approach friends who have told you outright they’re in fertility treatment?

Ok, so I actually had a friend who told me she was struggling but she hadn’t told anyone else. At that point, she had an adopted child but had made it clear that he wasn’t adopted because of fertility reasons. She had even previously made it known to our friend group that she didn’t have a desire to have biological kids. However, over the course of time, things changed and her desire to have bio kids grew.  In group settings, it would be wildly uncomfortable because I knew to be sensitive but others didn’t. Other moms would share their birth/breastfeeding stories and I would try to direct the conversation elsewhere.
However, if people don’t know you are struggling then you really can’t expect them to be sensitive…especially if you have previously made it clear you aren’t interested in being pregnant. I guess it’s a balance. It kind of depends on your relationship with the person. I steer clear of asking strangers any type of kid-related questions. But if you’re my good friend and you’ve decided to be tight-lipped, then that is harder to help. Overall, I guess it’s just always best to be sensitive. But if people aren’t honest with their situation then it becomes harder to be sensitive.

Did you want people who knew what you were going through to check in on you regularly? Or did you feel like you just wanted to update them and not be bothered?

I kind of referred to this a little bit in question three. For me, I liked having people check in on me. There was only one instance in which I protected myself from this and that was right after IVF. I knew that I would get the phone call on December 28th that would tell me if I was pregnant or not (it was through a blood test result) and I purposely told my friends I wouldn’t know till December 30th. I wanted to be able to process the news (if it was bad) with just Matt. I wanted to have time to wrap my mind around it and be sad for a little while. I didn’t want to have to field a bunch of texts and phone calls. When we did find out I was pregnant I told them that day…it was too good to hold in!
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Evie and Cal

Did you worry about announcing this recent pregnancy since you didn’t have trouble conceiving this time?

Oh, totally. I was sweating over it. I know that a lot of my followers are dealing with infertility and I wanted to be SO sensitive to that. It was this weird mix of emotions because I was so thrilled/surprised by our pregnancy but so distraught over how others still struggling would react. I prayed that they would be encouraged and filled with hope that this could happen for them too, instead of feeling bitter or angry. This may sound ridiculous but when I was having a hard time getting pregnant, and I knew someone who just “looked at their husband” and got pregnant, I would be mad. But if someone who had struggled like me got pregnant, I would be so happy for them. Was that fair of me? No. But if I’m being honest I did have those feelings initially. Part of me hoped that since I had struggled in the past that I wouldn’t be that “annoying pregnant girl.”
For some reason, we seem to be happier for people who have “overcome” to get where they are. It sure makes for an incredible story. But, I regret being spiteful to those who didn’t have the same struggle as me. So what if they can get pregnant easily? You never know what else they could be dealing with behind closed doors… an abusive partner, ongoing sickness, the death of a parent, unemployment, depression… the list goes on and on. There’s so much sadness in our world.
I think if we all had a little more grace we’d all be better off!
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I can’t think of any better parting advice than that! Thank you Natalie! And friends, if you don’t already, go follow this awesome mama on instagram @natyouraveragegirl and check out her blog!
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Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom in the Sacramento, CA area.

Retreat Yourself! Wild and Bright Women’s Retreat Wrap-Up

In case you need a refresher or are new to our blog (welcome lovelies!), I wrote a post a while ago about my amazing friend, Dr. Sara Smith and her work as a life coach, yoga instructor, and overall supporter of the great thinkers and inspirational leaders of this world. This weekend, I attended her Wild and Bright Women’s Retreat and wanted to give you all a recap.

While spiritual workshops may vary depending on religious affiliation, this one was all-encompassing, forgoing denomination, and welcoming your individual belief system as a source of empowerment, guidance, and healing.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In a world that is the most stressed, depressed, anxious, least empathetic, and most disconnected than it has ever been, unplugged retreats such as this one, that inspire community-based learning and self connectedness, are absolutely vital to shift the collective consciousness this world is currently embodying.

Through two days of yoga, guided meditation, and specific Life Coaching exercises, we were led to find one positive personal truth to feel within our bodies. We learned that no matter what, we have a choice to become aware, and to choose to feel peace within each moment.

The most profound lesson I took away from Sara, was that everything within me is perfectly made and is living my life in perfect timing.

I have spoken here so much of “brokenness”. I have spent SUCH a long time wondering, “what can I do to fix ________ aspect of my life?”  Sara reminds us that, we are perfectly made, and each moment we are going through, is a moment that can remind us that we are simply learning. We have been given a gift and can choose love in every move we make, instead of choosing anything that makes us feel imperfect.

For example, many of us are struggling with debt.

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I know I personally spend too much brain power and way too many minutes staring in terror at an overdrawn bank account with no hopes of reconciliation until next payday. During these wasted moments of anxiety, I would tell myself so many things.

“How could you let this happen AGAIN?”

“You’re so bad at managing money. Great, now we can’t afford anything”

“We will never be out of debt. We are so poor and we’ll be poor forever.”

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Sound familiar to anyone? This self talk comes into play in many aspects of our lives. Turns out, the way we do one thing translates into the way we do everything. Let me continue the example above, and translate it to other scenarios.

If I don’t do as well as I expected of myself in a workout:

“You could have done more. Why did you wimp out? Now everyone will be disappointed in you.”

Move into motherhood. Let’s talk about when I have a bad parenting moment, which is, until this week, I all too often labeled my moments parenting:

“You’re going to ruin your kids. They’ll never be kind and stable. You’re the reason they’ll need therapy.”

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I have wasted so many moments of my life choosing wrongly.  While these moments still happen, I must remind myself to tell the critical part of my brain to, for lack of a better way to say it, shut the hell up.

Internal dialogue has a profound effect on our outward reactions and emotions. According to an ASTONISHING article quoted here referencing research done by the National Science Foundation , “regarding research about human thoughts per day. The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80%  are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before and about 80% are negative.”

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Holy…..Bananas.

So, not only is our brain thinking mostly negative things, but we are also thinking negatively like a BROKEN RECORD! That thinking is powerful within our bodies, and has power to make us feel like CRAP about ourselves in every aspect of our lives.

When we say things like, “I hate my body” or “I wish I had her hair.” or “I’m a horrible mother” we are committing into our brain a false truth of negativity. When you are on “loop” in a negative self-talk spiral, ask yourself, is all that mind-chatter really true? If you reset to a mindset that we are created perfectly and there is nothing to fix, now are those thoughts REALLY TRUE?

I know I am glad to be breaking this awful cycle.

We must tell those repetitive thoughts to take a hike, and replace them with CHOICE. In the case of bank account chaos, instead of the swirling negativity, I can choose in the moment to break the cycle, forgive, and release it.

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Turning, “We are broke and we’ll never pay off debt”, into “We have delicious food on the table, all our true needs are met, and we come home to a warm and safe home every night” can make all the difference in the world. It can turn a sense of lack and fear, into gratitude and the feeling of abundance. And the power of that choice is ours.

Is this mindset going to be easy to maintain? Probably not.  Of course it’ll take constant reminders and integration into my routines. But! I am committed to choose LOVE instead of anxiety, worry, and negativity, or anything that does not serve me in my life that will not lead to peace. For it is from that peaceful and mindful state that we can create true and meaningful Action.

Example from Today: “I yelled at the kids today. I was feeling negative and anxious about money. I choose to let the anxiety go because it does not serve myself and or my children anymore. I am learning better habits every day.” <Breath. Pause. Release. Smile> “Hey kids!! I sure love you guys! Who wants to play freezetag???”

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Photo Cred: Eva Centeno

Have any of you attended a retreat? We want to hear about it! Commend below!

 

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Kristy is a peace-seeker, wife, mother of 2, and constant student of spiritual uplifting in Virginia.

Election Day: Parent Edition

Yesterday was election day across the country. For some of us this might have been one of the first midterm elections you participated in, or even knew were happening. According to this article by Vox, the highest midterm voter turn-out for youngin’s (aka 18-29 year olds in voting talk) was 21% way back in 1986. If you’re wondering why it seems like older people make all the political decisions in this country… THIS IS WHY. According to a Harvard poll cited in that same article, expected turnout for these 2018 midterms is 41% in that age group. Nearly double. Times are finally a-changin’, booya! (I’m clearly out of this young hip age group because I can’t think of a ‘cooler’ way to say that)

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That age group also happens to contain most of our parents of young children across the country. The vast majority of women who bear children do it between ages 20-34*. If you line up those numbers, that means a WHOLE lot more young mamas and papas were planning to get-out-the-vote yesterday than in earlier years. Which got me to thinking… what’s everyone doing with their kiddos??

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Me, the bump and hubby pants voting it up

I saw quite a few social media posts of people offering to watch other people’s kids so they could go vote – generosity itself! My own kids were in preschool/kindergarten while the hubs and I took just the bun-in-the-oven (currently our easiest child) to the polls. Of course there are the awesome people who plan ahead and vote-by-mail too (ahem… Christiana). But then, I saw even more posts of people carting their 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids with them into the polls and proudly showing off their little ones with “I voted” stickers.

In case you were wondering (as I was), it is legal to bring your minor children into the voting booth in ALL 50 STATES.

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Kristy shared voting with her little lady!

Now, I’m sure some of these civically minded parents were forced to drag their kids with them by fault of not having childcare (when are those politicians gonna get on THAT?? Hello America, we are way behind other civilized nations here! I digress…). I found myself, though, regretting not having taken our own girls in to be part of the process.

Is it more of a hassle to try to focus and remember which candidate or ballot measure you meant to mark with a 3 year old trying to climb up your leg, a newborn rooting around for a boob and/or a 6 year old wanting to mark the page with the sharpie they stole from who-knows-where? OMG yes. But it’s also an incredibly valuable opportunity to literally shape the future of America via your own offspring …which is basically why we are doing all of this parenting, amiright??!

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Margo displaying her voting prowess loud and proud!

Top 3 Reasons To Bring Kids To Vote:

  1. You show the kids the mechanics. One of the reasons cited frequently by millennials and younger for not voting was that they just, like, literally don’t know how you do it. If you get your kids running through the motions biannually from a young age, they’ll be ahead of the curve when they hit 18!
  2. You inspire others. You show other people that parents’ votes count. You show other parents that they can too get out the vote, whether they have childcare or not, to make it matter even more. The other people there can also see, and be reminded, that what they are voting on is going to impact the future, the actual children there in front of them.
  3. You demonstrate Democracy. We all know kids learn by seeing and doing better than being told. So seeing you vote, discussing the results and what it means in a concrete sense will teach your children what it truly means to live in a Democratic country better than the best TED talk or Daniel Tiger episode ever could.
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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Next election, you better believe I’ll be showing up with all 3 of my offspring. Still not convinced it’s worth the trouble? That’s ok! Swap childcare with a friend and go get your solo vote on. Or maybe even be super organized and get vote-by-mail and just show the kids the ballot like our smart lawyer friend ;^)

What do you think? Did you take kids to vote? Was it worth it? Would you do it again?? We want to hear in the comments!

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Dr. Annie is a mom of 2 strong future voting women growing a third voter of the future in California.

 

 

 

 

 


Lo and behold, other people had similar thoughts! This article by Girlscouts of America has a great guide to how to get your kids (girls specifically) involved and excited about voting from an early age. Other articles on Red Tricycle, The 74 Million and Kveller also give great reasons for voting with kids in tow and advice for raising engaged citizens if you want more information.
*Paul Taylor et al, The New Demography of American Motherhood. MAY 6, 2010; http://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/10/754-new-demography-of-motherhood.pdf

Bringing Home Baby: How to Manage Visitors

As an enthusiast for women advocating for themselves, the time I spend talking to couples about the postpartum period in my doula practice is vital. Whether a couple is just starting their journey as a new family of three, or they are adding more siblings into their mix, this family transitional period is precious and sensitive. I strive to teach some very hard and fast boundaries for the family to consider when introducing their newest family member to the world.

I have found that most research points are geared towards correcting the etiquette of the visitor (my favorite being THIS ONE,) but what I outline below are the simple reminders that I wish I had known within the first few weeks of being a new mom.

1) Be Selfish, Please.

In many cultural traditions, there is a two-week to two-month period of isolated bonding between mother and infant. I recently came across an interesting article from the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecology, and Neonatal Nursing, that astoundingly stated the modern shift away from “Lying-in” with your baby postpartum was mainly due to understaffing during WWII!

During World War 2, physician-researchers challenged the long-held practice of keeping postpartum women confined to bed for 10 to 14 days after a vaginal birth. Economic realities brought about change in the length of postpartum stays. Hospitals could not maintain their personnel because of labor shortages created by the war. Maternity units became crowded with more new mothers and were understaffed. Sending women home in 3 to 5 days after birth could alleviate staffing problems.

Ideally, you’d spend that time in bed or couch with your baby learning your nursing relationship (if you choose to breastfeed) and recovering your strength. This can help with your milk production by feeding on demand and with your overall rest. That sweet little one will want to nurse or have a bottle very often, so having them near you is a wise choice. 

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Photo Cred: Baby of Mine Lifestyle Photography

2) Ask for help.

Believe it or not, you CAN ask for help. I daresay you MUST. No matter what your home life looked like before the new baby, it’s going to look different now. Delegating simple responsibilities to other members of the family/community can be a huge relief to you during this time. Laundry, dishes, other kid drop off and pick up, even vacuuming? Yeah, girl. You are allowed, especially if you have limited maternity leave, to snuggle your baby as long as you want while others take care of the other tasks. Take this chance to ask, because folks will be MORE than willing to help you, even if they don’t get to hold the baby yet.

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I’ll have more of this, please.

Have trouble asking for help? We see you do-it-all-myself mamas! Make yourself a list of what would be helpful ahead of time. Consider having someone else – your sister, your doula, your ballsy no-filter bestie – be the one to ask people for specific helpful tasks if you really can’t bring yourself to do it. Literally practice with someone you trust role-playing the “Can I do anything to help?”, “Yes, thank you! We could really use some more diapers and paper plates when you come by” so you don’t blurt out your usual “No, we’re doing fine, thanks!”. You know what’s amazing?? People actually WANT to help – it makes THEM feel good. So really, it’s selfish not to give out tasks!

3) You Can Say “No Thank You” to Visitors, but “Yes” to Food.

A lot of folks find it most comforting to not have to prepare meals during this time. You don’t have to rely on someone to do this for you or panic if you haven’t filled your freezer with easy to make meals. You can designate a person, or start a TakeThemAMeal.com account yourself, where people who want to help can sign up to bring you a meal.  You can personalize it to your specific dietary requirements, and even specify days/times you’ll need a meal.  If you don’t want a visitor at the time they bring the meal, you can set two coolers out on your porch for them to drop off at anytime. One cooler can be for hot items, and one for cold. I repeat, you do NOT have to visit with them at this time.

4) Doorbell Signage for the surprise”Drop In”

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There can always be that ONE person in your life, whether its a nosy neighbor, a loud talking sibling, or an oblivious friend who can just “pop-by to see the baby” without calling because they were “in the neighborhood”. If you are not wanting random visitors, it is okay for you to make a sign taped over a doorbell, or a high traffic door that states “No visitors today, please. We are resting” or “Please leave any deliveries or goodies on the porch because we are bonding as a family now”. I love this Scary Mommy Article about waiting to see visitors until your family was ready. Again, it is OKAY to ask people to wait.

5) Get used to saying “Wash your hands first!”.

Everyone who enters into your home environment brings the rest of the world’s germs with them. While it is impossible to keep your little one away from 100% of the little nasty cooties that come along, being a clean-hands ninja warrior on proper hand-washing and sanitizing is important for your sanity. It can keep big-kid and adult sized germs away from your newest little one, who hasn’t had the chance to build his/her immunity against them. You also have permission to deny entry to older kids who are not part of the family. No kids, no sick adults, no touching baby. Did grandpa wash his hands and then scratch his nose? Back to the sink with him! Practice saying this. If it helps, say “My [doctor/midwife] made me promise to be really on top of this!”. Stop sign

6) Look, but Don’t Touch.

We’ve all gone through this as new moms. You’re in Target picking out cute baby onesies your first time out with little one and you feel it happen. Out of the corner of your eye, the lady across the aisle is making googley eyes at you and the new baby and she approaches, seemingly to the theme music of jaws, and reaches her hand to touch the new baby.  Before you can say, “Don’t touch my baby, please”, she’s got a little foot in her mouth pretending to gobble it up it because, duh, it’s the cutest foot anyone in the whole world has ever seen.

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I’m gonna eat those sweet toes!!!!

In the first few postpartum outings, you may notice that the grocery store, department store, brisk walk in the park, and maybe even a public bathroom stop will be the “oh look at the new baby” show.  Strangers LOVE seeing new babies, and will reach out to touch any little squishy cute part they can manage to see. If this feels as uncomfortable to you as it did to me on my first outings, you now have my permission to tell people not to touch your baby’s face, hands, well…ANYTHING. Some options that can help deter this behavior are baby-wearing, or putting a sign such as this one on the car seat/stroller handle.

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Baby wearing for the win

Alternately, keep baby in the carseat/stroller with a cover or blanket covering it completely and pretend baby is asleep whether they are or not. Again, this would be a good thing to practice ahead of time if you’re timid…

7) Be Both Mindful and Gentle with Your State of Mind

One of the biggest things I ask new parents to do, is to become sensitive to the changes in mood that can be experienced. While mood changes are normal, I ask that partners especially become aware of any out of the normal postpartum blues. This article from PostPartum Progress describes my point wonderfully by stating,

There are mamas out there who are really, truly struggling more than we might expect them to in a healthy adjustment to motherhood but who don’t necessarily fit the criteria for a major depressive illness or an anxiety disorder. I’ve mentioned these moms before; they are the mamas who hold it all together for those around them but, behind closed doors, fall into a heap on the bathroom floor, or in bed at night, or any place where no one is looking. It’s these moms who I worry most about because they aren’t likely to reach out for the support that they need to thrive.

In the case of the mom who won’t reach out, please refer back to this post about finding your village through a doula.

Although symptoms of PostPartum Depression or Anxiety can be mild, they still can be addressed with your Primary Care Provider for monitoring and treatment. It is important to know you are NOT alone, and that you CAN talk about all you’re experiencing with someone.

In essence, use this time to empower your new family dynamic by voicing what you do/don’t need or want when you have a new baby. This will help you to not only learn your new baby as a family, but it will also help to establish those who are willing to be part of this new tribe that has your best interest at heart. It is a time of transition, and it is ok to navigate that within your own powerful boundaries. And if you ever feel alone, reach out to us here at Real As A M*ther, because we are here to bring your village to you, and we fiercely have your back, mama.

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What is the most helpful thing someone did for you post-partum?? Comment below!
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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, wife, doula, and mother to 2 kids in Virginia.