Simple Western Themed Party

western party ideas

As I mentioned before, I typically pick a theme for the boys’ birthday celebrations. The celebrations are not always lavish, sometimes it’s just dinner with the family. For Little B’s second birthday, we threw him a Western themed party.

I don’t know why I thought of it, but it was a fun little theme. As usual, I went online for inspiration. There is always the danger of going overboard since there is a plethora of ideas. However, given the time and budget constraints, simple was what I was going for.


I wish I had something to show you, but I don’t. I was weeks from defending my dissertation and I had no time. I sent a text message out to those invited. Can’t get any simpler than that.


Again, this was very simply done, understated even. I made pinwheels from paper I bought at Michael’s and hung them on the wall. The hardest part was choosing which paper to buy. There were so many cute ones available. I also bought a plastic banner from Amazon that was very much reflective of Western prints. Aside from these, I blew up red and blue balloons.

red white blue pinwheels

balloons and western banner

Table setting

In planning parties, I always try to repurpose or recycle something, not only to save money, but in an effort to be green. I purchased a plastic red and white checkered table cover at Party City. We used that table cover for three different parties before I finally threw it out because someone punctured holes in it. I then layered a brown craft paper which served as a runner. The craft paper was packaging paper I received in the mail with some product samples.

We have a bunch of small mason jars around the house, so I made sure to use those instead of buying new pieces. Some of them were used for the centerpieces. I covered the jar with burlap I saved from my sister’s wedding invitation and tied with fabric I bought from Hobby Lobby.


As for tableware, I bought pie tins for plates and used our white cloth napkins and silverware. The napkin holder is made of cloth: the same red fabric from the centerpiece and denim cut from Big B’s old torn jeans. Again, I used small glass jars as drinking glasses. The mustaches and Sheriff stars for the drinking glasses were created from my Silhouette. The blue fabric tied around the glass was leftover from one of my previous projects. The paper straws can be found pretty much anywhere.

tin plate, cloth napkin, silverware

Food and Beverage

We served very simple food to match everything else. In my mind I had a vision of cowboys sitting around a fire chatting while eating dinner out in the open. I tried to think about what they would have eaten that is kid-approved. I decided on grilled chicken and corn – not historically accurate, I’m sure. Since Little B was big on spaghetti at that time, I served his favorite. Lastly, I made homemade strawberry lemonade. One of the perks of living in Southern California is that we have access to fresh local strawberries year round. They’re not as sweet as when in season, but still fresh.

western themed party food

One of Little B’s favorite fruits is watermelon. Since his birthday was in the winter, fresh watermelon was not easy to find. I opted for the next best thing: a cake that looked like a watermelon. His cake was an ice cream cake I bought at Baskin Robins. There was no way I was making an ice cream cake. I suppose with a lot of research and experimentation, I could have. Again, time was not on my side.

watermelon cake

(Sort of) Party favor

You can’t have a Western themed party without cowboy hats. I think this was what sparked the whole Western theme to begin with. I saw a hat somewhere and decided I was going to center a party off of that. I bought the cowboy hats and bandanas on Amazon. The background for the favor table was tissue paper from a gift Big B received last year. No, I still don’t think I’m a hoarder (hahaha), just selective in what I save.

western hats and bandanas

There you have it. A simple Western themed party.

3 Basic Methods to Achieving an Eco-Friendly Bathroom

how to create an eco friendly bathroom

As Earth Day approaches, I wanted to share some tips on how to make your home a little more eco-friendly. There are three very basic ways to go green in your bathroom. Below are simple steps you can do, one at a time or all at once, to transform your space into an eco-friendly bathroom. These small changes not only help the environment, but can also save you some money in the long run.


The first way to make your bathroom more eco-friendly is by reducing your water consumption. There are several ways to minimize water use:

    • Take shorter showers. Shorter showers means less water usage. Try using shower timers that limit your showers to five minutes. These timers adhere to shower walls and are available online. Alternatively, you can also listen to your favorite song to time your shower. Once the song is finished, so should your shower be.
    • Switch to a high-efficiency shower head to slow down water flow. Many companies manufacture a variety of styles of high-efficiency shower heads that can compliment your existing bathroom decor. From my experience, although water flow slows down, it doesn’t mean that the shower head lacks power or is diminished in performance.

shower head

    • Change your toilet to a low-flush or low-flow toilet for an eco-friendly bathroom. Approximately 76 gallons of water are flushed down the toilet per day per household.1 Low-flush toilet can reduce water usage by half depending on manufacturer. Additionally, some cities give residents a refund by installing these types of toilets. Check your city to see if you can get a refund by installing low-flow toilets in your bathrooms.

low flow toilet

  • Use aerators in your faucet. Similar to high-efficiency shower heads, aerators allow for reduced water output without giving up on performance.


There are many, many choices in the market for household cleaners. A simple way to greenify your bathroom is by using products that are not only safe for you and your family, but also for the environment.

Bathroom cleaners

  • Use eco-friendly bathroom cleaners. Green cleaners are made with natural ingredients that are not toxic to humans or animals, unlike some conventional cleaners that emit toxic chemicals2. Additionally, some eco-friendly cleaners are manufactured in a more sustainable process than conventional cleaners are. Examples of eco-friendly cleaners include botanical disinfecting wipes, toilet bowl cleaners, and glass cleaner. You can also find DIY household cleaner recipes printed in books and online.
  • Ditch paper towels and opt for reusable cloth wipes and sponges instead. Paper products, including paper towels, comprised 15% of discarded trash in landfills.3 There are many types and brands of cloth wipes; some are made with cotton and wood-based pulp. Similar to cloth wipes, cloth sponges work well to clean surfaces, cleans streak free, and is incredibly absorbent.
  • Avoid using chemicals to clean your floor. Use a steam mop or a green mop to clean the floor instead. Neither require harsh chemicals to clean, just water.

ecloth mop on dirty floor

Personal products

      • Switch to eco-friendly shampoos, conditioners, body soap, and toothpaste that are SLS-free.
      • Use a natural sponge, loofah, or pumice to exfoliate. Although effective in removing the top layer of your skin, soap and body scrubs with microbeads are a danger to marine animals.4 However convenient these products are, there are other ways of sloughing off your cells by using products that are natural. Alternatively, you can make your own body scrub. There are many recipes online that use items already in your cupboard as ingredients for these DIY scrubs.

eco-friendly shampoo and body wash

    • Switch to bamboo toothbrushes that are made from more sustainable resources and are biodegradable.
    • Buy paper products that are chlorine-free, made from recycled paper, or made from bamboo. Paper manufacturers use up a lot of energy and produce toxic byproducts.5 Additionally, hundreds of thousands of trees are cut down a year to produce virgin toilet paper.6

recycled toilet paper

  • Another option is to start using family cloth. Family cloth are reusable toilet wipes. You can make them yourself or purchase from a retailer.


    • Change your bulbs to energy efficient lightbulbs that use about 25%-80% less energy and last longer than than traditional incandescents.7


  • Next time you want to relax in the tub with candles, opt for candles made with beeswax or soy. Candles made with paraffin emit toxic chemicals that are harmful.8

There you have it. A list of small and big steps you can do to make your bathroom a little greener.

What steps have you taken to create an eco-friendly bathroom?

1Indoor Water Use in the United States
2Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants
3Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012
4Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes
5Chlorine-Free Paper
6A Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products
7How Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs Compare with Traditional Incandescents
8Emission of air pollutants from burning candles with different composition in indoor environments

Whole Foods Market Opens in Irvine

I went to the media preview of the Irvine location of Whole Foods to take a sneak peek at what this new location has to offer. This location is the 41st store to open in Southern California. A distinguishing feature for this particular store is The Irv, a casual bar-restaurant which offers seasonal menu items. At The Irv, customers can feast on mouth-watering small plates, flat breads, salads, and entrées. Additionally, customers can select from one of 24 beer taps and assortment of wines and cocktails to quench their thirst. Although other Whole Foods also have a casual restaurant, none have the gigantic bicycle wheels spelling OC.

the irv appetizers and salads

whole foods irvine the irv

Whole Foods is known for it’s selection of produce, especially organic fruits and vegetables. This location is no different. Most of the produce are locally sourced. I asked our tour guide to define local. By their definition, local is anywhere that is about a six hour drive away.

whole foods irvine produce department

In addition to produce, Whole Foods features many local merchants. From soap to beer to fitness attire, Whole Foods offers hundreds of products made right here in California. I absolutely love their commitment to the local community.

whole foods irvine local beer

As we continued our tour of the store, we learned about the process through which Whole Foods acquires meat. All beef, chicken, and pork sold at Whole Foods are rated using the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare rating system. All meat come from animals that were not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Seafood is delivered fresh six days a week and sourced locally when possible. As part of their customer service, experienced butchers can cut and size meat upon request and the seafood department sells salad, ceviche, and poke made fresh daily.

One of my favorite sections of this location is the bulk section. The Irvine location has a pretty good size bulk section filled with essential pantry items. There are bins and bins of grains, flours, nuts, spices, legumes, and treats. I was like a kid in a candy store when I saw it.

whole foods irvine bulk section

Another thing Whole Foods is known for is carrying specialized items. As someone who is sensitive to lactose, I was in glee when I saw this refrigerated section. So much so that I took a picture of it. Milk alternatives were huge at Expo West this year. There were so many exhibitors with non-dairy milk products beyond soy and almond. Whole Foods also has shelf-stable options available. I now know where to get my milk alternative products.

whole foods irvine milk alternatives

The Irvine location has an expansive offering of prepared foods perfect for busy families and professionals. There are several rows of grab-and-go salads, sandwiches, wraps, soup, and entrées. Made daily are scratch bread, pizza, sushi, custom sandwiches and meals-on-the-go. The frozen section has 47 doors and two bunkers filled with a variety of entrées and desserts. If cooking is not your thing, it’s easy to find something to eat at Whole Foods.

whole foods irvine grocer aisle

Similar to other locations, the Whole Foods at Los Olivos Marketplace puts on events for the community. Below is a list of events for April.

Whole Foods Market Irvine April events

  • Sunday, April 10, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., KIND Bar Takeover
  • Saturday, April 16, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Mini Facials in Whole Body Department
  • Sunday, April 17, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., Whole Kids Club Presents: Build your own seed starter
  • Wednesday, April 20, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Paint & Sip at Whole Foods Market Irvine
  • Saturday, April 23, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., DIY Avocado Face Mask Tutorial

Whole Foods at Los Olivos Marketplace is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can connect with Whole Foods Irvine on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Connecting with Nature at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

tucker wildlife sanctuary entrance

During this warm Southern California spring, when it’s not entirely too hot to be outside, we enjoy nature walks. One of our favorite places to visit is Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary. We’ve been going there since Big B was little. Every time we go, the kids always marvel at something new.

I decided to take Little B during a weekday instead of our usual weekend visits. Just a note, if you decide to go on a weekday, call ahead first. If there is a field trip, you will have to wait until the group is done to enter most of the sanctuary. We enjoyed the short nature trail just next to the science center since it was the only thing opened to us while a field trip was there. It really was a good thing because it was Little B’s first time exploring that little area. We saw a lot of native plants, cute little flowers, signs with facts, and little creepy crawlers. I am not sure who was more entertained, Little B or me.

entrance to nature trail

We finally entered the sanctuary (after taking a snack break) and Little B beelined for the tortoise area. Unfortunately, Henry wasn’t there that day. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time I saw any tortoise in the sanctuary. I hope they are all okay. The boys really do enjoy watching them. As per our usual routine, we stopped by the pond next. We saw koi, frogs, and turtles. Visitors can find many different animals at Tucker. We usually encounter a squirrel on one of the pathways, hear a variety of birds (we rarely see them as they are hiding from the very excited and loud kids), and see some insects flying by.


Along the way, there are opportunities to bird watch. Tucker Wildlife works to preserve the natural habitat of local birds. As much as the kids want to see birds, they just can’t sit long enough, or quiet enough, at the bird porch. The bird porch is a nice shaded area, so definitely a place to stop for a while and cool off during those warmer days. During this visit, I actually saw a hummingbird flying by. Of course, it took notice of us and left. In other previous visits, we’ve seen a woodpecker and other birds I don’t recognize in various locations of the sanctuary. According to the website, over 98 species of birds visit Tucker annually.

bird watching through telescope

One of my favorite things at Tucker is walking through the sensory garden. I very much enjoy seeing native plants, especially the prickly pear cacti. As you can see below, they are quite massive and form a wall taller than Little B. I try to point out all the different types of plants to the kids. Some days they are engaged and some days they are not. That day, Little B was not. We then stopped by the amphitheater because the boys love to go up and down the tiered seats. It’s also a nice place to sit back and just look around at the mountainside, the creek, listen to birds, and be still even for a few minutes.

looking around succulents

Our last stop was the Natural Science Center. It’s nice because by the time we finish with the outdoor exploration, it usually gets hot and the center is air conditioned. We had the center all to ourselves that day, well, most days we usually do anyway. The science center offers a different way to explore nature. It really allows visitors to get up close and personal with wildlife. There are so many hands-on activities that are fun for kids and adults. I seriously learn something new every time I visit.

natural science center

Little B would not budge from the microscopes. It’s probably because he didn’t have his big brother shoving him off of one. He just kept putting slide after slide under the scope to see them enlarged on the monitor. He also opened every drawer in the center. Most of the time he didn’t bother seeing what was in them, he just liked to pull the drawer. He did find some of them intriguing enough to give pause. He especially liked the butterfly drawer. He also enjoyed seeing some of the live animals on display. There are a  variety of amphibians and insects visitors can observe at the science center.

looking through microscopes

butterfly educational drawer

There are many ways to connect with nature such as through books, films, and the outdoors. Some days we prefer books, and others – like when it’s raining – we prefer to cuddle and watch a movie. However, nothing beats being out in the open and seeing, touching, and exploring nature. We have been to other sanctuaries in Orange County. It’s one of our favorite places to visit.

How to you like to connect with nature?

You can connect with Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary on Facebook.

Spring Break Fun at Legoland® with The LEGO® Movie™ 4D

Legoland® California theater

Spring Break starts in a few weeks for many school districts here in Southern California. The weather is certainly cooperating for many who plan to be outdoors. From water activities to museums to theme parks, there are so many family fun activities to do. One that I would recommend is to visit Legoland® to watch The LEGO® Movie™ 4D.

As a Legoland® Insider, we were invited to watch the premier of The LEGO® Movie™ 4D. The boys were beyond thrilled. They love, love, LOVE anything that has anything to do with Legos®. They are also fans of the movie and was excited to find out that they were going to watch another one…well, sort of a new Lego® movie.

The LEGO® Movie™ 4D

  • Reunites Emmet, Wyldstyle, Unikitty, MetalBeard, and Benny on a new adventure
  • Introduces new character Risky Business
  • 4D effects includes wind, water, and fog
  • Directed by Rob Schrab
  • Exclusively shown at LEGOLAND® theme parks and LEGOLAND® Discovery Centers
  • Run time is 12½ minutes

In order to get the most out of the 4D experience, we sat on the fifth row, as close to the center as we could. You will definitely feel all the elements sitting this close. I remember sitting in the center but way up at the top the last time we watched a 4D movie at Legoland. We couldn’t feel anything. The boys were kind of disappointed. This time, they got the full effect of watching a 4D movie, and so did I. The theater was already cold, but got colder when wind blew on my face and I got spritzed by water. It was so much fun!

Lego® Movie™ 4d roller coaster scene
Credit: Legoland

I kept my eye on Little B at the beginning of the movie to make sure he was doing okay. Although he is used to watching movies in movie theaters, including the one at Legoland®, I wanted to make sure that the sound wasn’t too loud for him or that his 3D glasses were not falling off his face (it’s a one size fits all type glasses). I was concerned for nothing. He did fine. He thoroughly enjoyed the movie as well as his big brother. We all did.

The Lego® Movie™ 4D A new adventure
Credit: Legoland

Similar to the original movie, the plot was simple enough for kids to follow along with. The dialogue catered to everyone, with jokes that cleverly appealed to adults as well. For now, this movie experience will have to satisfy The LEGO® Movie™ fans until the sequel comes in May 2018. Don’t worry, two new full features are set to open in 2017, LEGO Batman™ and NINJAGO. The whole family is anxiously awaiting for both of those.

As hubby and Big B’s spring breaks are not at the same time this year, we will not be traveling very far from home. We will probably visit museums, take nature walks, visit the lake and beach, and schedule play dates with friends. Hopefully, we can stop by Legoland®, too.

You can visit the Legoland® California website to watch a clip of The LEGO® Movie™ 4D. You can connect with Legoland® California on Facebook and Twitter.

What are your plans for spring break this year?

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Cavalia Odysseo Extends Show in Orange County Until April 4

cavalia odysseo the fairies
Credit: Cavalia

I was invited as media to watch Cavalia Odysseo in Irvine last week. We started the evening in the Rendez-Vous VIP tent which opens 90 minutes before the show. Hubby and I ate dinner in the VIP room before the show started. The food was an eclectic mix of gourmet appetizers and foods. Everything was delicious. I ate just enough and was pretty full. The catering staff were very attentive to the buffet and refilled plates and bowls as soon as they emptied; ensuring guests dined well and were satiated. There were two bars serving unlimited beverages including beer and wine. The Rendez-Vous VIP also serves as an art gallery, with paintings of horses displayed throughout the lounge. In addition, a photobooth was available for guests to take pictures and a boutique with Odysseo items for sale.

Rendez-Vous VIP includes

  • Center-row seats
  • VIP Pass
  • Buffet with a wide variety of complimentary foods served before the show
  • Unlimited wine, bubbly, and beer
  • Dessert Buffet, coffee, and tea served during intermission
  • Exclusive stables tour after the show
  • Odysseo souvenir
cavalia odysseo acrobats
Credit: Cavalia

After dinner, I made sure to grab a couple of bags of popcorn for the show. As part of the VIP package, guests sit in the first few rows. We sat on the second row, towards the left side of the stage. We were up close and personal with the performers. Before the show began, the audience were asked trivia questions on a big screen about the show. It was a fun and engaging way to get the audience excited about the performance while waiting for it to start.

cavalia odysseo
Credit: Cavalia

Cavalia Odysseo

  • Odysseo features 65 horses of 11 different breeds
  • There are 45 international artists which includes riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, and musicians
  • There are 350 costumes and 100 pairs of shoes and boots used in the show
  • The stage is 17,500 square feet with a video backdrop the size of three large movie theater screens
  • A full-sized merry-go-round and 40,000 gallon lake make appearances in the show
cavalia odysseo the traveler
Credit: Cavalia

The show opened with a song and horses parading the entire stage. I was mesmerized from the first act to the last. The stage was a sight to see in and of itself. It’s quite dynamic, as theater stages go, but it’s huge. The mere size of the stage was overwhelming even without the backdrop and props. Through the 17,500 square foot stage, and with the help of 18 projectors and 200 moving lights, the audience was transported to several destinations around the world: from Africa to southwest America to Easter Island. At one point in the show, a full-sized carousel descended down to the stage and 40,000 galloons of water magically filled the stage for the final act.

cavalia odysseo the angels
Credit: Cavalia

It was exciting to see the beautiful horses so close. I could tell that the performers and horses had created quite a bond. Performers were always quick to kiss, pet, and verbally praise the horses throughout the show. They really cared for the horses. All the horses in the show are males, and given that, the trainers have done an amazing job with getting all of them, including the stallions, to work well with each other.

cavalia odysseo nomads
Credit: Cavalia

Odysseo brings together a variety of performers: acrobats, horseback riders, aerialists, dancers, musicians, and singers. In addition to performers, technicians, on-tour costume department, trainers, and other staff member round the cast who brings Odysseo to life at each show location. All music heard by audience were performed live. Except for the songs, they were no other speaking parts of the show. It was through the artistic movements of both humans and horses that made the show so captivating and riveting.

cavalia odysseo final scene
Credit: Cavalia

There was one intermission in the show. As part of the VIP experience, we went back into the Rendez-Vous lounge for coffee and dessert. The second part of the show was just as exhilarating as the first. A lake magically appeared on stage. During the backstage tour, I found out that it takes 20 minutes to completely drain the lake. Water used for the lake is recycled.

Odysseo is enchanting and mesmerizing. I sat in pure bliss seeing the majestic horses perform. There were jaw-dropping moments when aerialists and acrobats held poses that defied gravity. The sheer muscle control that these artists had was beyond me. The mellifluous musical numbers were very soothing. The whole show was spectacular.

Odysseo will be in Orange County until March 27. Whether you are a horse lover or not, this show is one not to miss. Visit Cavalia for more show information and to purchase tickets. You can connect with Cavalia on Facebook and Twitter. Use code SocialOC to receive a 10% discount of ticket sale price.

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Fair Trade Chocolates: Impacts of Buying Fair Trade Goods

fair trade chocolate

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and chocolates are on my shopping list. If and when I do buy chocolates for the family, I make every effort to choose Fair Trade certified. I haven’t always bought Fair Trade chocolates in the past. In fact, I didn’t even know about Fair Trade until a few years ago. Now, I prefer chocolate brands that support this business practice.

What does Fair Trade mean1

  • Raw materials are harvested in an ethical manner with fair working conditions
  • No forced child labor or slave labor
  • Farmers and farming groups receive fair prices and credit
  • Direct trading with producer groups to eliminate middlemen
  • Support environmentally sustainable practices

There are many reasons to buy Fair Trade certified. These are my top three.
Fair treatment. For me, it’s about using my voice, in this case my money, to let companies know that I want people to be treated fairly. Fair Trade is an alternative to conventional trade that promotes a partnership between producers and consumers. As a consumer, I like knowing that I am helping farmers and growers better their life and get out of poverty-stricken situations. The aim of the Fairtrade Standards is to balance the inequality of power in trading relationships, unstable markets, and abuses of conventional trade.2

Support of community. Fair Trade Premium, an additional sum of money above Fair Trade price, is given back to farmers and workers to improve the communities where they live and work. Fair Trade Premiums have increased access to education (built schools, provide school supplies, pay for tuition, and set up scholarship), given community members access to healthcare, empowered women through opportunities in leadership and education, and improved infrastructure (roads).1

Environmentally safe practices. Fair trade cacao farmers use natural farming systems that protect forests (i.e. use shade of forest canopy instead of clear cut field).3 Fair Trade prices allow farmers to protect forests and keep lands they own instead of selling them to big plantations to be clear cut. General environmental protections of Fair Trade include protection of water resources, promotion of agricultural diversification, proper waste management, encouragement of organic farming practices, restrict use of agrochemicals, and prohibit use of GMOs.1,3

fair trade logo - Every Purchase Matters

If you’re interested in learning more about where the chocolate you eat come from, The Dark Side of Chocolate is a documentary to watch. It’s certainly eye-opening. If you want to support fair practices, I suggest you look for the Fair Trade certified logo next time you shop. It’s not hard to find what brands to buy. The Good Trade features some of my favorite brands of chocolates. If you are looking for vegan chocolates, Food Empowerment Project lists over 200 companies that make vegan chocolates without use of human slaves.

In addition to chocolates, below is a list of other Fair Trade certified products that would make excellent Valentine’s Day gifts for your loved ones.

Fair Trade products

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cocoa
  • Flowers
  • Nuts
  • Wine
  • Clothes

What are your favorite chocolate brands? Are they Fair Trade certified?

1Fair Trade USA
2Fairtrade International
3Global Exchange