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Food Shopping

Trader Joe’s Staples

February 22, 2018
trader joe's staples, avocado toast, pantry staples, healthy eating for family, everything bagel seasoning

When it comes to food, I am a planner. I try to map out meals for the week, and we cook most our our meals from home because I like to know what I’m eating, and I feel like the only way you can truly do that is if you’re cooking it.  I keep a lot on-hand to make quick and simple meals. I often have friends come over, and they seem to amazed at how much is in my fridge, pantry and freezer. I don’t think it’s anything extraordinary; it seems quite efficient and smart if you ask me.

That said, I thought I would share some of my Trader Joe’s favorites with you since many of these items help me make quick and simple meals for my family. I don’t get to Trader Joe’s regularly. I tend to go only once a month since the locations in Houston aren’t in my neighborhood. I’m really just about convenience, so I shop mostly at Kroger because it’s one street away. I only hit up Trader Joe’s if I am near it for another reason, otherwise I have to make special trip. I think going once every month or so is worth it to stock up on affordable food staples and produce.

Even before I became a mom, I just kept a well-stocked pantry. It’s how my family grew up, and I guess I just inherited that. I’m the best person to stay with during a hurricane because I already have everything, and I’m not scrambling like everyone else out there! We’re pretty healthy eaters because I dictate our meals, meal plan and and do our grocery shopping, but I am also very realistic. Until recently, I had a job where I was not getting home until 6pm or later most days. Even though I work from home now, and I’m not scrambling in the evenings as much, I still don’t want to be a slave in the kitchen because I want to spend my time with my kid and husband or wind down doing something relaxing for myself. I stick to real, organic foods most of the time and supplement with convenience foods as needed. I think there are a lot of good brands out there now (including great organic brands with affordable convenience items) that make life easy for you, so why not help yourself out a couple of nights a week so you can spend more quality time with your family? Some of these convenience items like Mandarin Orange Chicken aren’t necessarily the healthiest, but they taste great, can be made quickly and help satisfy our Chinese food takeout cravings. Again, I’m just realistic. I find myself supplementing my meal planning with items like this or a frozen pizza now that I’m a parent, and I don’t feel bad about it. I’m definitely live by the “everything in moderation” mantra. Good for you if you’re gluten free, paleo or on the Whole 30 bandwagon. I have never dieted in my life, and I am not a restrictive person. I’ve trained myself to like real food and I crave it, and this lifestyle has worked for me for the past 18 years. I have no plans of changing it up anytime soon and I’ve become even more flexible since being a mom.

All that said, here’s a highlight reel of some of my favorite Trader Joe’s staples.What are some of your favorite Trader Joe’s items? I love that they are constantly coming out with new things to try and I pick up something new or seasonal every time I go. I just picked up these creamy tomato soup crackers, but haven’t tried them yet, but Braden is obsessed with tomato soup so I feel like he’ll like them.

Everyday Trader Joe’s items and Pantry Staples I love: 

  • Organic Liquid Stevia – I use a few drops in my coffee every day. I have three in my cabinet right now, and this costs half as much as what you’d find at Whole Foods.
  • Everything but the Bagel Seasoning Blend – so delicious sprinkled on avocado toast, eggs or roasted veggies.
  • TJ Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I know some people are really picky about olive oil, and I do know a little about olive oil because I previously worked on a few olive oil brands that we had as PR clients. Trader Joe’s Premium EVOO and their regular EVOO are both  really affordable — I think around $6.99 for a 33 oz. bottle of the regular and $8 for the premium. I use both for everyday cooking. The Premium is slightly more fruity and comes in a quart container.
  • Organic EVOO spray  – This non stick cooking spray isn’t in an aerosol can and has no propellents. I use olive oil spray for quick cooking things in like eggs all the time.
  • TJ Coconut Oil Spray –  This non stick cooking spray is great for baking and high temperature cooking. It has a mild flavor either.
  • Organic condiments such as ketchup, yellow mustard, mayo etc. Organic condiments are expensive, but at Trader Joe’s they are typically less than half of what it cost at the mainstream grocery store. I think mustard is less than $2 and that’ll last a few months in our fridge.
  • Organic Coconut aminos – If you’re a Whole 30 or paleo devotee, you’re probably familiar with coconut aminos. It’s a seasoning sauce that can be likened to soy sauce or tamari, but less salty. I made this recipe for Sesame Orange Chicken in the InstantPot a few days ago, and it was AMAZING. I’ll definitely be making it again.
  • Ghost Pepper Potato Chips – these are like crack. I love them so much and they’re not healthy but they’re soooo good.
  • Roasted Plantain Chips – I love chips and these make me feel like I am getting that fix.

trader joes favorites, trader joes staples

My Go-to Frozen Items from TJ’s:

  • Organic Brown Rice – We eat a ton of rice in our house, and I have a legit Asian rice cooker that we make jasmine rice and brown rice in, but you can’t beat brown rice in three minutes, especially for busy weeknights! We paired this with the Honey Sesame Chicken recipe I mentioned above.
  • Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna – this is actually quite good and I think it costs $6.99. Braden says it tastes like pizza and will eat a pretty large portion of it, and it has a ton of veggies in it.  I typically pair with a salad for another quick, last minute weeknight meal. I think I have three of these in my freezer right now.
  • Mandarin Orange Chicken – I also have three bags of this in my freezer right now. I wouldn’t call this healthy maybe more healthy-ish, but my husband loves it, as does my toddler. We make the frozen brown rice I mentioned and steam some broccoli, and it gives us our Chinese takeout fix.
  • Fire roasted bell peppers – We make fajitas a lot in our house, which we can do on the fly since we typically have chicken or flank steak in our freezer. Like I said, I like to have things on hand that make meals and that includes staple proteins like chicken breasts, flank steak, ground beef or turkey. So, these peppers are great to add to fajitas or tacos.

trader joes frozen staples

Regular Fridge Items:

  • Organic greens – Trader Joe’s has a plethora of organic bagged greens such as arugula, kale and spinach at great price points. When I am there, I’ll pick up about three bags of things which is what our family consumes in a week’s time. This kale is perfect for kale chips. I would buy more if I could get them to last longer.  I am a person who needs lettuce pre-bagged and ready to eat because it just saves me time.
  • Sliced mango – I just love mangos and could eat three a day so this is perfect for snacking since it’s all cut up.
  • Beets – perfect for quick salads
  • Salmon dip – I love smoked salmon on bagels but I don’t get to eat that too often. But, this cream cheese based dip when paired with everything bagel chips or pita chips reminds me of a lox bagel. Braden likes this dip a lot as well, and let’s face it. When you find something your 3.5 year old will eat a lot of it then becomes staple. My kid isn’t picky, but it’s hit or miss if he wants to eat.

trader joes staples, fridge staples at trader joes


Fashion + Style

Pink Dress with Bell Sleeves + Pink Wish List

February 8, 2018
atascocita photographer, eagle springs photographer, pink bell sleeve dress,

pink bell sleeve dress, spring dress

pink bell sleeve dress, spring dress, pink ann taylor dressAtascocita Photographer, Eagle Springs Photographer, Houston Family photographer, Pink Bell Sleeve Dress

pink bell sleeve dress, atascocita family photographer, eagle springs family photographer, Houston family portraits

First off, February is like the new January. That’s how I’m approaching this month. I’m determined to knock a ton off my perpetual to do list, so count on hearing more from me in the next few weeks! Pink is a great transitional color, and it helps me get out of my hibernation funk.  I bet you’re probably like me and counting down the days until we transition to spring. I don’t care what that groundhog thinks, I need a little warmer weather in my life! I bought this feminine pink bell sleeve dress awhile ago and am just getting around to sharing some pictures we took in December for some family photos. Even though I bought this dress in the winter, I knew it would be great for spring, making it a perfect outfit for church, baby showers, etc. It’s on mega sale now, so if they have your size, definitely pick it up!  I’ve rounded up a few other pink dresses + other pink pretties currently in my online shopping cart, so check those out below, too.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I certainly have pink on my mind. A pop of pink is always a festive addition to any outfit that can work well beyond just the holiday.  I love these pink tassel earrings that I bought last year, and I find myself looking for more occasions to wear them and other pink pieces because it just puts me in a better mood! Now that I work from home, I’m definitely wearing more casual pieces, so I’ve also shared other everyday items like this cardigan,which is perfect for me since I can wear it with jeans or dress it up a bit if need be.

We’re pretty low-key when it comes to Valentine’s Day, but I love making it fun and memorable for my mini me. Here’s a fun dessert fondue that’s great for the holiday or just when you want to change up your usual dessert routine. It’s really easy to make and perfect for kids, plus you can make it your own by changing what you dip. Indulge more with marshmellows or stick with fruit to be a little more healthy. I’m planning on tackling treat bags and some sort of festive dessert for B’s Valentine’s Day party this weekend. I’m pretty much a slave to my kid. I guess that’s just being a mom, and one day he’s not going to want my heart-shaped pancakes and cheesy tchotchkes from the Target dollar section, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can!  Do you have any fun Valentine’s Day traditions? I’d love to hear them!

Photos by Tiffany Harston Photography

Fashion + Style Shopping

Cozy Wear for Lounging & More

January 5, 2018

I am not made for the cold weather.  My No. 1 hobby lately = hibernation. Seriously though, I am a homebody and now that I work from home, I find myself wearing cozy clothes most days.  Add sickness on top of that, and well, welcome to the land of elastic waistbands, fleece and long-sleeve shirts with thumbholes. Even when I go out, I’m wearing leggings, a pullover and vest because it’s just easier and more comfortable to be in these types of pieces than skinny jeans and a sweater. I think many of us have been hibernating the past couple of weeks no matter where we live because we have all experienced our version of chilly weather. So, I thought it would only be fitting to share some of my true OOTD staples.

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I should have added this blanket to the mix. My friend gave this super soft throw to me as a Christmas gift, and I’ve been wrapped up in it ever since I unwrapped it! My kid and I fight over it, so I should probably just buy another since it’s under $30. Braden is so funny lately, and wanted to sit with it and not share, and he told me there are “plenty of other soft blankets in this room, Momma!” Sassy threenager stage for sure.

My most worn cozy pieces are definitely these high-waisted leggings I picked up  last year during the Nordstrom anniversary sale and my Uggs. I know a lot of people who love these leggings and wear them all the time. I don’t wear my Uggs out in public because it gives me flashbacks to 2003 when they were all the rage, but they are great to lounge in at home.  I have had a tan pair and pink pair since college so definitely have gotten my money out of my Uggs.

Stay warm, friends! I’m just getting out of my sick fog, so I’m busting out the laptop more both for work and for tackling blog stuff more consistently. I did binge watch two seasons of The Crown, and I don’t feel bad about it! It was SO good and I find myself googling the history of the royal family because I think it’s so interesting. Are there any new shows I should consider? I’m thinking Big Little Lies.

Family Holiday kids

Holiday Pajamas for Kids

December 18, 2017

christmas pajamas, holiday pajamas for kids, matching PJs

matching holiday pajamas, Christmas Pajamas for kids

matching holiday pajamas, Christmas Pajamas for kids

matching holiday pajamas, Christmas Pajamas for kids

matching holiday pajamas, Christmas Pajamas for kids

Jack is a little skeptical of Braden’s affection.

matching holiday pajamas, Christmas Pajamas for kids

Kids in matching pajamas might be one of my favorite things ever. We had some family visit a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t resist getting some matching holiday PJs for Braden and his cousin Jack. They’re both at such a fun age right now where they can start to play together. Gifting matching holiday pajamas for siblings or cousins is a tradition I hope to continue!

Honestly, kids in matching clothing is sort of the best thing ever. I used to wonder why people did it all the time, but I get it now. I tried to get matching family pajamas for us this year, but Ben refused. I will have to be content with mommy and me outfits  for now.

I’ve linked a few more that are super cute and still available that you can get in time for Christmas! All the ones below I’ve linked are unisex and would look great on boys and girls (the ones I picked up for Braden and Jack are only available in one size, so snag them if you need a 3T. They’re from Old Navy, and they were really affordable!)

Red and green fair isle unisex PJs

Red and white bear fair isle PJs

Santa sleepwear

matching holiday pajamas, Christmas Pajamas for kids, toddler Pajamas

Fashion + Style

Casual Holiday Party Wear

December 15, 2017
black lace top, WAYF, casual holiday party look

WAYF BLACK LACE TOP, burgundy denim, holiday casual outfitMost of the holiday parties I go to these days are house parties, so I thought I’d share a  casual holiday party look perfect for drinking wine  and eating tons of yummy things off a charcuterie board, all while catching up with friends with a little Christmas music playing in the background. 🙂

Casual for me means jeans, and I’ve been wearing these burgundy jeans a ton since I bought them in the Nordstrom anniversary sale this summer. I’ve mentioned that I’m a fan of all things wine/burgundy, as you can see here and here. When these jeans are paired with this lace top, which could definitely be dressed up more with a skirt to be more cocktail appropriate, it all screams low-key fancy, which I basically just made up, but accurately describes how I like to dress.  This low-key fancy outfit makes me feel sort of festive yet comfortable so it totally works.

Velvet is something else that totally could be low-key fancy. I’ll probably wear this cami with a black tuxedo blazer to another holiday party I have coming up. And, statement earrings, of course, finish off a casual yet dressed-up holiday party outfit.

P.S. I’ve had these Nine West booties for six years, but I love them and find myself wearing them a lot lately. I linked a similar pair below.  I love when I can rediscover something I already have and love it again!

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

Lace top   | Burgundy Denim | Shoes | Earrings | Marc Jacobs purse (old)



Gifts Holiday Shopping

Holiday Gift Guide: Monograms & Personalization

December 11, 2017

gifts for couples, gifts for friends, monogram giftsThe countdown is on! Christmas is less than 2 weeks away, so that means most online orders need to be put in this week to make standard shipping times. Eek! I try every year to not be a procrastinator, but here I am again, scouring the internet for gifts for family and friends. I love monogrammed or personalized gifts — maybe it’s the Southern girl in me — so I’ve curated a list of some of my favorite things this season. Some I already have like this necklace, which I wear several times a week, or this address stamp, which I included on a gift guide last year. These are all tried and true gifts perfect for friends and family! Happy shopping!

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Fashion + Style Gifts Holiday Shopping

Gift for the Guy in Your Life with JORD Watches

December 4, 2017
jord, wood watch, holiday gifts, mens watch

wood watch, JORD, mens watch, holiday gifts for men

wood watch, JORD, mens watch, holiday gifts fro men

mens watch, holiday gifts for men, wood watch, JORD

jord, mens watches, wood watch, holiday gifts for men

A nice watch has always been a go-to gift for the special guy in my life. I’ve given Ben one or two watches over the years, and three years ago, I gave him a really nice watch that he loved. But, when we moved into the new house in April, he misplaced it. After months of looking, he still can’t find it to this day, so I knew I wanted to get him a new one this holiday season.

Christmas came early for Ben this year when JORD reached out to see if I’d like to partner together for a holiday post. JORD makes sophisticated timepieces for everyone, specializing in handcrafted wood watches. If you know my husband, he is a Jack, or rather a Ben, of all trades. 🙂 He’s probably the most handy of all husbands and has visions of creating a woodshop in our garage. (He’s even made a few kids’ picnic tables that rival Pottery Barn Kids). So, to be able to gift him a watch that’s rustic yet refined and made from wood is totally in line with his taste and his personality.

JORD has a ton of styles available, and this particular style is called the Dover Black and Koa. I like how unique the face of the watch is and that  it’s made of natural koa wood versus the standard stainless steel watches you see on most guys.  Also, I love that you can personalize the watch, too, with custom engraving. For Ben, I made sure his little family is always with him and had our first initials placed on the inside of the watch. What a special way to commemorate an anniversary or a memorable date for your favorite guy!

Currently, JORD has free shipping going on for holiday orders. PLUS, I  have a 25% instant coupon you can use when you place an order! All you have to do is enter a here, and you’ll be emailed a special discount code. Definitely take advantage of that before Dec. 19 when it expires (and before Christmas sneaks up on us!)

Watch c/o JORD

This was brought to you in collaboration with JORD. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Photos by Jason Fitzgerald Photography

fall family photo

A sneak peek of our fall family photos. You can see Ben’s already getting a ton of use out of his new watch! PC: Katie Hill Photography

Food Gifts Holiday

Gift Guide for your Foodie Friends

November 30, 2017
foodie gift picks, gifts for food lovers

We all have a friend who is in-the-know about the latest restaurant, loves to cook and is just an all-around lover of all things savory or sweet. I might be that person among my friends,  but I also have gals and guys in my life to talk shop with, so I’ve curated a list of gifts for favorite foodie friends in your life!

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

A few notes on some of my favorites:

  • Give a little Texas to a friend who lives out of state with this Goode Company Pecan Pie! It ships really well and come on, who doesn’t love pecan pie?!
  • Graeter’s ice cream – if you haven’t had this, you NEED to try it. I will say, I didn’t know about it until it became a client of mine a few years ago, but now I know, and it is so, so good. It’s the No. 1 mail order ice cream, and I have gifted this to so many people who just love it. This is a super premium ice cream  made with in small batches using a French pot process. They only uses high quality ingredients…I could go on and on, because it was literally my job to tell people how awesome this ice cream is, but it truly is! They have their seasonal flavors right now, but definitely try the signature flavor of Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. They have dairy free sorbets and low glycemic options, and you can mix and match the flavors. This would make an excellent give to send to family when traveling to visit them and then partaking in a little of the gift when you get there. 🙂 Some flavors are also available in stores. I know Kroger in Houston carries it.
  • Penzeys Spices  – this is a local spice store that has a location in my old neighborhood and they sell everything online. Their spices are amazing and a good price point. I’ve gifted the baking set many times with a pie dish and the receivers have always been fans. 🙂
  • Two of my favorites magazines are Southern Living and Cooking Light. I love gifting magazines to friends because I feel like it’s the gift that keeps giving. It’s nice to get a new magazine every month and relax for a few minutes perusing the beautiful photos. Why I love Cooking Light is because it’s very approachable. My everyday way of cooking mimics Cooking Light  – fresh, healthy ingredients when possible and everything in moderation. I comb through each issue every month and am always trying a new recipe. Southern Living is very aspirational for me; I love Southern food, so I drool over most of the recipes in the magazine each month, occasionally make one, but mostly have intense cravings for  things like chicken and dumplings and fried okra that are often featured. I also love the decor and home posts in the magazine, and my home style definitely leans toward Southern traditional. I told our builder when we met that I wanted a Southern Living style porch on our house and it was one of the things Ben and I agreed on.  I was able to visit the Time Inc. studios earlier this year where all the work for these magazines are created each month. The test kitchens are jaw dropping and the food prop closet is UNREAL. Sort of a dream come true for a gal who has read these magazines for 15+ years!


I hope this gift guide was helpful. Check out my last one featuring gifts for the wine lover in your life. Happy shopping!

More soon,


Fashion + Style Shopping

Cozy cardigan + velvet cami

November 21, 2017
velvet cami, cardigan, fall style laureenlovesDOTcom

ann taylor, cardigan, fall style, velvet cami

velvet ann taylor cami, cardigan, booties, falls style, LaureenLovesDOTcom

ann taylor, cardigan, velvet cami, fall style, LaureenLovesDOTcom

velvet cami, cardigan, fall style

anntaylor velvet cami, laureenlovesDOTcom, fall style, cardigan

velvet cami ann taylor, skinny jeans, cardigan, falls style, LaureenLovesDOTcomCardigan, jeans and booties = my go-to casual outfit these days since we’re just seeing a glimpse of fall weather. Since it still gets a tad toasty in the afternoons, pairing a cardigan with a cami or other lightweight top is just plain easy. I’m quite the collector of cardigans, and this one is a neutral basic in an oatmeal color I knew I’d wear quite a bit, so it was perfect for my wardrobe. I picked it up from the Nordstrom sale this summer and I’m wearing it weekly, along with so many other of the pieces I picked up during the #Nsale back in July like these booties. Good news is that both the booties and cardigan are still available! This cardigan is sort of like wearing a blanket, so I REALLY like it since I’m a cold-natured person.

I mentioned my new affinity for velvet and I even included this cami in this round-up of velvet pieces I did a couple of weeks ago. I  snagged it when this store was having another one of their amazing 50% sales, which they are having again today (and probably again later in the week), so definitely take advantage! I’m wearing a small, and I love that it’s a little loose. Perfect for the holiday binge fest this week, too – ha!  I would pair this cami with a black blazer, jeans and heels for a more dressed up look. It comes in a ton of colors, but I personally just really love this wine color, which is no surprise if you’ve been following along lately. Wine/burgundy  — I can’t quit you right now!

Also, the bow stud earrings I’m wearing are simple yet sophisticated. I can’t enough of J.crew accessories right now and they are also on sale making them less than $12 right now. I also picked up this festive pair recently, which are so fun for the holidays.

Outfit details: Cardigan | Cami | Jeans | Booties | Earrings | Initial Necklace

With Thanksgiving upon us, that means all the Black Friday sales are right around the corner. Most retailers are starting early, so I’ve rounded up some really great sales that I’ll be perusing over the next day or two. I’m all about doing my Christmas shopping online, and I haven’t done too much of it yet, so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of these sales.

ShopBop – Buy More, Save More event with code MORE17. 20% off $200+, 25% off 500+ or 30% off $800+. Ends 11/26

Ann Taylor – 50% everything in store 11/21. I’m sure they’ll come up with another good sale this week per usual!

J.Crew – 40% nearly everything with code THANK U online and in stores. Ends 11/26

LOFT – 40% off everything with code GIFTITUP

GAP – 50% off everything with the code BLKFRIDAY. Ends 11/25

Banana Republic – 40% off everything (and an extra 10% off with code BRCARD if you’re a cardholder.)

Nordstrom – Designer clearance sale with 40% select styles

Serena and Lily – 20% off everything online with the code CHEERS. Ends 11/26

Pottery Barn – 30% decorating event, which includes ornaments, stockings and more

Pottery Barn Kids – the great gift event with 20- 70% off nearly everything free shipping with code UNWRAP

velvet cami ann taylor, laureenlovesDOTcom, fall cardigan, nordstrom cardigan, fall style

Gifts Holiday Shopping

Holiday Gift Guide: Wine Lovers

November 14, 2017
wine lovers, holiday gift guide

Giving a nice bottle of wine for a gift is pretty common, but there are so many more gifts for wine lovers out there. I have more than half the items on this list, so I can attest to their usefulness and/or quality. I want this item since we always have open bottles of wine sitting out on the counter when we have people over, and I’m paranoid we’ll leave a wine stain on our marble counters.

We used to always put wine in my little bike basket (or in the bottom of the stroller) and bike to a neighborhood BYOB restaurant when we lived in our old neighborhood. If you live in an area like this, I think this gift would be so fun!

Most of these gifts are a great price point, and some could double as a white elephant gifts, too. If you missed my last gift guide, which includes gift ideas for the kids, holiday lover, hostess and home decor lover, check it out here.

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Let me know if you’re a fan of any of these! Happy shopping and cheers! 🙂