Rylan’s Reading List: Age Two

Where the Wild Things Arel

Rylan loves books. LO.V.E.S. them. I feel really lucky that “read a book mama” is a natural part of our day. The back of our cars are filled with daily picks for the drive to daycare and books make getting dressed in the morning or ready for bed at night much more manageable.

So, what are we obsessed with these days? Well, no matter how much I beg or try to bargain, Ry picks from the same rotation of books over and over again. I assume this is normal? As of now, we can pretty much recite the following with our eyes closed…in our sleep.

  • Where The Wild Things Are – a classic. We love to dance to the “rumpus” with Max and the
    wild things
  • Flashlight – a beautifully and uniquely illustrated book with no words, which allows us to use our imaginations and re-explore the story over and over
  • Builder Bugs – a really neat pop up book from our friends whose little guys love it too
  • Goodnight Moon – a staple in Ry’s crib for his own reading time
  • Yummy, Yucky – this taught him that mommy’s coffee is “yucky”
  • It’s Hard to Hurry When You’re a Snail – a cute story about a little snail that also happens to be religious at the very end and tie into Noah’s Ark
  • Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb – a short Dr. Seuss classic that makes the bedtime routine go super fast. On the contrary, there is always a bit of a sigh from mom and dad when he requests the full length Oh The Places You’ll Go before bed
  • Corduroy – another super sweet classic. I love when he chooses this one

Books are one of my favorite gifts to give and receive. What are favorites in your family library?

Kicking It Up With Orange Theory

Fitness has been a cornerstone of my weekly routine for quite awhile now. Even pregnant, I did yoga sculpt, barre and spin for 38 of 39 weeks. Sometimes I think back to my 20’s when I couldn’t be bothered with so much as a yoga class and I am disappointed I squandered all the free time I had not being more active! Such a shame.

For the past few years all of my working out has been done at QiFlow in downtown Denver. QiFlow is a community I have grown to love and I consider myself friends with several of my all-time-favorite instructors. When it comes to breaking a sweat, I am really only motivated by fitness classes. When I can’t get to a class I may go for a run or attempt a DVD in the basement, but the chances are quite slim.

A few months ago, however, I felt myself starting to get a little bored with my same classes and also realized I was hitting some plateaus. Simultaneously, I realized that 5am classes, albeit painful, are doable. I looked around for one more gym to enhance all the great progress I’ve made in spin, barre and yoga and turned to Orange Theory Fitness.

Hot damn.

Orange Theory is no joke. Sure, you can absolutely tailor it to your ability and trade running for walking and pick up the lightest set of weights. But one look around the room during class and every competitive fiber in your body will likely, as it does for me, fire up and push you to run harder, row faster and go big in the weight room. And just when you think you’re at  your max, a glance up to the screen displaying your heart rate monitor stats proves that you’ve got a little more to give. Classes vary each day between endurance, strength and power. Depending on the day the treadmill brings long pushes, hills or sprints, which is replicated on the rower as well. In the weight room you use everything from TRX suspension to free weights and Bosu balls. The 60 minutes ends with a summary of your heart rate monitor emailed to you. Triumph!

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Once again, hot damn.

Orange Theory (OTF to its fans) has pushed me to a new level in my fitness. I am faster and stronger and can finally see a noticeable difference in my muscle mass/tone on my arms and legs. In fact, my muscle tone has changed so much that I have had some days where I’ve worried about jeans fitting tighter in the thighs or thinking my arms look a bit bulky–but once I get a grip I see strength, power and feel endurance I’ve never had before.

I aim to take at least two OTF classes per week in addition to my spin, yoga, bootcamp and barre classes at Qi. It’s one of the most productive and impactful 60 minutes of my day. The addition of OTF class packs to my monthly Qi membership hasn’t been cheap, but I’ll gladly cut back in other areas to invest in my health and wellness. I primarily look to OTF for my 5am classes. Even though I can drag a bit at first, I do much better with the OTF intensity early in the day rather than after a long day in the office. OTF sets a “kick ass, take names” sort of tone for my day.

OTF can be for everyone, but I believe the monetary investment in the classes is only worth it if you really want to move the needle and push yourself each class. I am inspired by all of the different men and women who hop onto the treadmills and strap into the rowers–the mix of ages and abilities is truly amazing.

If you live or work near downtown Denver I can’t say enough about the new-ish Union Station location. The equipment is fantastic and the instructors won’t let you quit on yourself.

Try and OTF class and get ‘er done!

Note: I was not compensated by OTF in any way for this blog post. I am simply motivated by my experiences there and hope others will give it a try! 

 

It Doesn’t Always Get Easier

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“It gets easier.” How many times do we hear that in a lifetime? From parents, teachers, coworkers, friends…everyone says “it will get easier” in just about every tough situation.

But what about when it doesn’t?

In this case I am not talking about parenting itself, because I know every year will actually be harder in new ways. Terrible two’s, terrorist three’s, 5th grade homework that’s over my head, getting cut from a high school team…

No, I am talking about the balance of working outside the home and being the mom I want to be. I remember, vividly, a moment during the early days of maternity leave when all I wanted was a shower, coffee that stayed hot and to be at work among adults who weren’t on a three hour feeding schedule. The pit in my stomach during the early days of leaving Rylan as a tiny baby in the hands of daycare teachers now, sometimes, pales in comparison to the pit I have on the drive to daycare after a weekend of playing, discovering and conversing with our VERY talkative two year old.

It doesn’t always get easier.

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Before I was leaving a baby who needed a lot of sleep, bottles, some stimulation and cuddles. Now I’m dropping off a little boy who asks for mommy to be “with me” when he is checking out something new, requesting his favorite books by name and demanding “sit down mama” when it’s time to eat as a family. Yes, his outbursts and tantrums are infuriating, but his warm heart and kooky moods make me complete.

It doesn’t always get easier.

More than ever I am leaning on my tribe of moms who get it, and can remind me of how lucky I am to truly have a career I am extremely proud of without sacrificing mornings, nights or weekends with my family. The moms who don’t blink an eye when my voice cracks a bit or eyes start to water when I talk about how fun the weekend was with Mike and Ry. The moms who I know will pick me up on the days I crumble and wonder, will it get easier?

It doesn’t always get easier, but Rylan is learning so much based on the way our unit functions day in and day out. He loves his daycare, teachers and friends. He is 100% flexible on who watches him and how any one day unfolds. His smile gets huge on weekends when he realizes it is “mommy and daddy day.” That’s the very best smile he has. And in those moments, it gets easier.

Birthday Week Emotions

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Two years ago tonight I was just a few days away from the most incredible day of my life. The day we met Rylan. This week is full of emotions.

For all the things that signal the era of parenting we’re about to begin, the terrible two’s, I do already have a favorite. Conversing.

When Mike and I went to Mexico for five nights in June we left a little boy with a growing vocabulary. When we returned we were greeted by a little boy stringing together two, three and four word phrases, working so hard to tell us what he is seeing in the world around him and how he wants to be a part of it. My favorites…

  • Oh, hi mama!
  • Ry see it
  • Ry push it
  • I try it
  • I do it
  • Woah. Muscles
  • More milk please
  • Tona (i.e., Kona) outside
  • No Tona (again, how he says Kona’s name right now)
  • Tona barking
  • Tona no barking
  • No raining. Sunny out
  • Ry needs (insert a myriad of requests)
  • Oopsie
  • Daddy plays the drums
  • Mike guitar
  • Daddy/mommy made it
  • I see outside

There are so many more new phrases and every day he surprises us with a new word that I can’t even imagine how he learned it. Tonight it was frisbee and porcupine when we were reading one of his favorite Words picture book.

We also had a hilarious and all-boy conversation on Monday about who poops. He said “sorry mama” when I was rushing to re-change a fresh diaper before daycare drop off. I told him not to be sorry because everyone poops. He sat there for a minute, processing the information, and promptly asked, “Mickey Mouse poop?” We then had to go through every character of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to talk about who poops. I am the mom of a boy, no doubt.

Ry will be two on Friday, and this birthday week is full of reflections for me. It feels like a really big birthday.

Last year I was an emotional wreck about stopping breastfeeding after 12 long but proud months. Ry’s walking was on the horizon but he was still taking his sweet time. Today he is running circles around us, daily, and tests our conviction as he learns how to press buttons and explore boundaries.

From birth to 12 months we made sure he survived. From 12 to 24 months the shift from survival parenting to ACTUAL parenting has been incredibly real…and fun, scary, exhausting, rewarding, confusing, and the list goes on. It’s hard not to obsess about every teachable moment and remember that he’s just two, and his “up please mama” requests are ever-fleeting. I am proud of Mike and I for stumbling through the transition and making the time to talk daily about what’s working, what’s not working and how to remain on the same page. Communication, listening and forgiveness is everything right now. Everything.

I’m going to be the mama of a two year old. It’s hard to comprehend. I am happy. I am tired. I worry to a fault. And, I am in love. I am head-over-heels in love with my family.

Ground Control to Tired Moms

Ground control. Come in ground control.

When I realized how long it has been since I blogged, and all that I’ve wanted to share, a play on these lyrics came to my mind immediately. I’ve lost radio contact with any sort of control.

Much of the aimless spinning is a result of summer fun. We’ve been camping, to a cabin in the Spanish Peaks, had playdates and taken Saturday morning swim lessons. I just completed round II of a twice-a-week 5 a.m. bootcamp that has me going to bed ridiculously early as I’m up to three, sometimes four, 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. gym classes/week. Mike and I escaped to Mexico for several nights, just us, at the end of June and through it all I’ve managed to stay ahead of the laundry piles and keep some fresh produce in the house–though there have been very few home cooked meals. We’re all eating a smorgasbord of items with bagged kale salads dominating my lunch and dinner routine. So much so that Rylan sees any sort of lettuce and says, “salad mama.” At least it’s not ice cream, right?

But I can’t shake the feeling, or an obsession really, with all I am not doing. The house is what I define as surface clean. Drawers, cabinets, closets and storage areas are a hot mess, causing me anxiety nearly every day when I try to balance and shove items into a fake sense of organization. We owe wedding gifts dating back to last year and I have a list of about a dozen thank you notes I can never seem to write. Kona is still rarely, if ever, walked and I can’t remember the last time I exposed Rylan to a new recipe. I’m dying to get my hair cut but cannot find the time based on the other priorities I won’t give up. I think my car is blue, but I cannot tell underneath the layers of mud and dust. My eyes ache by the end of each day because I desperately need to go to the eye doctor. But when?

I am SO tired of bagged salads with a protein dumped on top…what I am eating right now. Bagged salads have become a symbol of how certain “me” priorities, like working out, have a domino effect. Having it all as a working mom is not only impossible, it’s a brutal facade that we have to be more honest about.

Yes, I choose to work outside the home because I’ve worked hard to get to where I am professionally and it makes me happy. I don’t want to get off the train. But I also need to work and the daily push/pull of giving work and family my all is all-consuming. Yes, Mike and I work full-time but that doesn’t mean we can afford a nanny who shops, cooks and cleans. Nor can we afford a regular cleaning person if we want to hold gym memberships, travel a few times a year and eat high-quality food. We both work to provide Rylan a safe and stable upbringing. Simple as that.

It’s only going to get harder too. People don’t just tell me that, I see it every day among the incredible moms I call my colleagues and friends. Soccer practice, dance classes, summer camps, homework–Mike and I will blink and soon the “problems” of toddlerhood in a dual-career household will be laughable. I will literally laugh at myself for being stressed.

Perspective. That’s my perspective right now.

Perspective that the angst and tears and stomach eating stress comes from such a deep and powerful love for my family. My obsession is not really about messy drawers. It’s about wanting to do everything so perfectly for my family. I want Rylan to have everything I can give him that’s isn’t necessarily a possession. Love, health, adventure, structure, discipline…and I want to do it all everyday and do it perfectly.

I guess I still haven’t accepted that the Pinterest mom is not real. She’s not attainable.

Ground control. Come in ground control. Can I get a home cooked meal, closet organizer and a hair cut?

 

 

Camping with a Toddler

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First Anderson family camping picture.

We did it. Camping with a toddler, check!

Albeit car camping without limits on what we could pack “just in case,” I am pretty proud of myself for rolling with it even though I was crazy nervous about the insane weather we’ve been having in Colorado. Let’s just say, thank goodness one of us (Mike) kept their head on straight in the days and hours leading up to the adventure.

I searched the Internet like a crazy person leading up to the trip to make sure I was packing all the right things. Again, we got to pack in a station wagon with a pod on top…for 2 nights. We looked a bit neurotic I’m sure.

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Rylan, almost 23 months, was all grins for his first full day of camping.

If your summer plans include a toddler and a campground, here are my car camping suggestions. If (and that’s a big IF) we get brave enough to do a backpack trek with Rylan I may need a Xanax before trying to pack. Just sayin’…

Toddler Car Camping Checklist

  • Board the dog (if yours barks non stop and is scared of thunderstorms/would keep the entire tent awake)
  • Load up the pack n’ play – just do it and thank me later
  • Stash more diapers than you think you’ll need
  • Bring (but hide) a special treat to keep him/her quiet at 6:45 a.m. when everyone else you are camping with is still asleep (i.e., charged iPad with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I dare you to judge)
  • Tons of snacks
  • Hand sanitizers – yes, plural
  • A good natural bug spray or one you make at home. And of course, I had all of my essential oils with me, and mainly used Purification for a few bug bites, DiGize for post-s’mores stomach aches and Peace & Calming to help me fall asleep
  • Only a few toys – which will get ignored for sticks and rocks
  • Numerous blankets if there is any chance of it getting cold at night + a warm sleep sack if they still use one. We absolutely love the Baby Deedee Sleep Nest and bought it a size larger just so he could have it for this trip
  • Tight layers for under warm PJs, gloves, warm boots and a warm hat – unless you are confident it will not get cold at night
  • Wine – for mama
  • A modified schedule – nap was a must but we were flexible on timing. Same for bedtime – he stretched much later than normal but had such a blast watching the fire
  • Friends – but only if they have a sense of humor

Now, go forth a book a campground! Toddler squeals and grins (and yes, meltdowns) in the great outdoors await.

How to Jumpstart a Fitness Habit

Credit: Aryaziai.com

Credit: Aryaziai.com

I’m not crazy. Nothing about nearly daily workouts while juggling a husband, toddler and a full time career is extraordinary. Believe me. Millions of people do it every day, especially here in Colorado, and do it much better than me. They complete Ironman competitions, run ultra-marathons and compete in Crossfit competitions. I merely get my butt to the gym however it’s possible at least five days a week. Sometimes I exceed this goal, while other weeks I come up way short.

But I am flattered and excited whenever friends or coworkers ask me how I get it done. Fitness has become a passion and I truly enjoy giving personal tips for how I went from never working out to craving movement every single day.

The quick answer, I made it a daily habit. No excuses. Never miss a Monday.

For me it took about two months (plus a few years) of tossing excuses to the curb and saying no to a few commitments in order for me to grasp how daily workouts are absolutely possible. Whether you are just getting started, or looking to increase from two or three days a week to something more regular, I always go back to the following:

  • Block the time on your calendar like you would a meeting or doctor’s appointment
  • If childcare is a juggle, sit down with you partner on Sundays and map out workout schedules for the week ahead. Then put those workouts on each other’s calendar
  • Respect the calendar and others will begin to as well
  • Become a morning person. I’m serious. The only excuse I can count at 5 a.m. is being tired. However, by 5 p.m. my excuses range from being tired and hungry to wanting to be the parent who picks up Rylan from daycare and starts dinner
  • Sign up for classes with a penalty for not showing up. Over time you might be able to get away from this, but it’s really hard to hit snooze when $25 for an Orange Theory class is about to go down the drain
  • Try everything. Yoga, bootcamps, treadmill classes, Zumba, barre studios – try EVERYTHING until you find a gym/studio, fellow gym-goers and teachers who you absolutely love. People under estimate how powerful of a motivator community can be for workouts, even if you work out solo at a gym. The heart of my motivation comes, here in Denver, from Qi Flow Fusion and Orange Theory Union Station
  • Fill the gaps when all you have is 20 minutes between meetings or nap times. Download any of the myriad of smart phone apps for working out. I love the ab, squat and pushup challenges along with PopSugar Active. Follow trainers on Instagram and steal their moves. Lunge around the house while talking to your mom. Just move
  • Accept that you’ll miss things, like a happy hour or daycare pickup, or get your butt up early so missing happy hour (or pickup) is never an issue. Daily movement does come with a bit of sacrifice
  • Be okay with being called “crazy.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear it from family and friends. But those closest to me know I am tremendously happier, less stressed and more sane when I spin, run or lift out my worries and daily stressors. The gym is my perspective. My place to realize I have it really damn easy and I am lucky to have health and love in my life

I am in the best shape of my life at 32, almost 33. I look back at college pictures and cannot believe the way I took care of myself (meaning, not at all). While I have always been on the thinner side, just lately have I become truly strong. Strong feels so much better than skinny.

Motivate when you’re ready. Find kindness for yourself when you are not. The latter is where I struggle most.

Here’s to good health!

Daily Fitness: It Is Possible

Credit: Aryaziai.com

Credit: Aryaziai.com

The world doesn’t need another fitness blogger. And I am absolutely not qualified to offer fitness advice or routine suggestions.

However, working out is a huge part of my “me” life outside of parenting, marriage and a full time career. In fact, my workouts are what allow me to do all of those other things semi-well. I also think I am a pretty good motivator…I think?

Here’s my belief. Under very few circumstances can I NOT fit in a workout. Finding and maintaining this mindset has been a long, slow evolution. I used to be the queen of excuses. Work is busy. I’m sore. I have an 8 a.m. meeting so I can’t go before work. I have plans after work so if I go in the morning I’ll miss seeing Rylan. It’s Saturday, I deserve a break.

But then I decided to try my hand at a 5 a.m. class, and it changed everything. It opened up daily opportunities throughout the week to work out without Rylan even knowing I had left the house. I also blocked time on my calendar once a week for a 4:30 p.m. class. This gave me a reprieve from daily 4:30 a.m. wakeups and still let me pickup Rylan from daycare, a small task that makes me smile every time.

I downloaded squat, sit-up and pushup challenge iPhone apps to get me moving on the days the gym just isn’t possible. My Jawbone steps tracker pushes me to park a little further or take the stairs.

I find ways to move daily. “Never miss a Monday” is a guiding mantra that truly keeps me on track. Healthy decisions on Monday set the tone for a stronger, healthier week.

I’d be lying if vanity isn’t a driver. Who doesn’t like to feel their best in a bathing suit or bounce back from a pregnancy, stronger and more fit than before? But it’s bigger than that. Much bigger. Daily movement is my Xanax. It’s one of the only assurances I can control to help me stay healthy for Mike and Rylan. I can’t answer emails or go down the Facebook rabbit hole when I am doing sprints in an Orange Theory class.

How did I function for so long without daily fitness?

This weekend I am lucky enough to be a part of The Blend Retreat (#blend2015) in Boulder, Colo. The bloggers who flew in from all over the country and brands that graciously gave bags upon bags of free product were inspiring to say the least. The experience also made me realize that I want to infuse more fitness and wellness into what I talk about here–through the lens of a hectic working mom of course.

I hope to create a culture of motivation here!

Moms. Step Away from the Superhero Cape.

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I was given an advanced copy of the book in order to complete this review. However, all opinions are 100% my own. 

Being selected by Kerry Rivera and Alexa Bigwarfe to review an advance copy of Lose the Cape, Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive, is still a “pinch me” blogger moment from the tiny and inconsistent corner that is currently Lex & Learn. My initial reaction to the copy is even included in the opening “Praise for Lose the Cape” section of the new book! So cool.

And “praise” is an understatement for what Kerry and Alexa deserve.

My current state of motherhood is 100 percent unique. Rylan is his own person, Mike and I have our own marriage and the way we run our household only makes sense to us. And guess what? Every single parent on the planet is living, day in and day out, their own 100 percent unique parenthood journey as well. Perhaps that is why at times, parenting can feel so isolating.

This reality is also why I love this book. It’s written to be a reference for the widely varying stages of this insane ride. For example, the chapter about scheduling doesn’t really apply right now because Rylan isn’t signed up for a myriad of evening and weekend activities yet. However, I shed a tear (or 20) over the pages about laundry, mom guilt and the unattainable Pinterest standards fueling insecurity among mothers who should otherwise be lifting one another up. I. Don’t. Craft.

Here are just a few tidbits I took a highlighter to and want to frame next to my pillow…

Invisible lists. These are “… all of those “other” tasks we instinctively do as moms: scheduling appointments, organizing birthday parties, arranging summer camps and lessons, buying gifts for teachers and friends, filling out paperwork that comes home from school, and beyond.” YES!!! These are what I don’t articulate to Mike, yet lose sleep over and get resentful about, even though he’d be more than willing to help.

“Sixty‐three percent of couples with kids still living in the home argue over cleaning, according to a 2012 survey of more than 12,000 BabyCenter readers.” I’ve blogged about it before, but I implore soon-to-be parents to budget for a cleaning person. We have yet to fully work it into our monthly budget and cleaning is a HUGE (if not the main) source of stress for me.

“Your kids need to see you without a device permanently attached to your hand.” Guilty. Both of us. We have to get better about this after work and on weekends. Completely our bad.

“Stop being a martyr. NOW! You can find time and make “me” time a priority. Or, you can just be a bitch. You choose.” I actually have a lot of me time. I work out at least 4 days a week, travel, see friends, etc. However, I always have a LOT of guilt about this me time despite it keeping me sane, healthy and happy. See the next sentiment below!

‘“Lose the Mommy Guilt!” This stuff will tear you down, eat you up, and kill your soul.” TRYING! I do not think it’s feasible to rid yourself of mommy guilt altogether. In fact, on certain days the guilt actually makes me a more present, creative and thoughtful mama. But the (sometimes) soul crushing guilt of booking a kid-less trip or leaving him every day to work outside the home has to stop.

Moms to be. Moms in the newborn and toddler trenches. Moms carpooling all over the universe with pre-teens. We all need to take a deep breath, read witty and honest books like this during uninterrupted me time (preferably with hot coffee or a cocktail) and give ourselves a huge hug. We, and our partners, are kicking ass and probably don’t even know it.

If you like your cape, maybe vow to take it off once or twice a week. If the cape is dragging you down, toss it into the Goodwill pile or trade off cape days with your partner.

Our littles will thank us in the long run. I’m quite certain we are already incredible superheroes to them anyway.

Summer Espadrilles

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I love shoes. I used to dream about buying Jimmy Choos with my first bonus out of college when I started working. While 10+ years later I’ve never worked up the nerve to drop that amount of cash on one pair of shoes, my shoe closet runneth over with stilettos, wedges, sandals and everything in between.

Yet the one style always lacking was a classic espadrille. Talk about missing out on comfort meeting effortless style.

A friend from San Diego is a gorgeous world traveler whose Instagram account has always made me green with envy. A few months ago I noticed she was starting a small import business of espadrilles made in a small village in the French Pyrenees, either by hand or by the original crafting machines. Today, it‘s the only village in France which still offers handmade shoes based on traditional  production. Check out these stunning production photos! Intrigued, I stalked her pictures and website for months–always a little timid to commit to the price tag.

But as more and more of our mutual San Diego girlfriends posted pictures of their French espadrilles, I had to place an order.

I. Am. Hooked.

Her site, Basque In The Sunlight, makes you want to toss caution to the wind and book a trip to France. However, if that’s not possible do yourself a favor now that spring is finally here and treat yourself to a pair (or two) of these lovely, comfortable and versatile shoes.

For sizing you’ll want to order them so they arrive a bit snug. The shoes mold and stretch quickly. I am a true US size 7 and am very happy with the size 37 equivalent I chose. It was really tough to pick a color, but I like to have fun matching patterns, especially in the summer, and thought the navy + white/cream stripes would complement a lot in my wardrobe.

Next I have my eye on the “France,” “Citron” or “Bleu” colors. And don’t even get me started on the Pestemal towels she’s carrying–versatile enough to use as a cover up and beach blanket. They are made following an old traditional technique which uses wooden looms. These definitely have my name on it for Mike and my escape to Riviera Maya in June. I am eyeing the “Menthe” color.

I can’t say enough about Jen and what she has created. Follow her on Instagram for more drool-worthy style, travel and fashion goodness.

 

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