How to take healthy eating beyond the table

Posted by Allyson Owens on

Once you’ve hit that 6 month mark and start introducing new foods to your baby, it’s every parent’s goal to try and teach their little one about healthy food. We try multiple options to test and train their palettes with purees, mushes, and more. Yet, no matter how hard we try, we are still met with resistance, or worse as they get older and start tasting all the sugary, cheesy snacks their preferences rapidly shift away from veggies and towards the goodies. Picky eaters quickly emerge and meal time can become a major struggle every day. Check out delicious recipes that help our picky eaters explore new foods from Katie at Eat Pretty Darling. Just like it is with adults, the easiest way to stay healthy at the table is to make it a part of multiple aspects of our lives.

Think about the trend of avocado - in the last decade, the consumption of avocado in the US has increased by 79%. Concurrently, avos have been much more prevalent outside of the grocery store or your favorite Mexican restaurant's guacamole.  Now, almost every coffee shop has avo toast, avocado ice cream is a thing, and fresh accessories, toys, and more, frequent our everyday lives.

The effect? We eat more avocado! Our brains are trained by frequency, the more we see avocados out and about, the more we want to eat them too. Think of what we can do as a culture by taking all our favorite fruits and veggies and giving them the same attention outside of the dining room or kitchen.

This very concept is what inspired the creation of Pleni Naturals skincare products! And we are so excited to see that there are more companies out there with the same mission!

One such company is Little Foodie - We met founders Dena and Jessica through Instagram and we immediately fell in love with their collection of onesies and toddler t-shirts with fun, brightly colored fruit and veggie characters on them and whimsical play on words. Seriously, so cute!

Although a 6 month old may not internalize exactly what a cucumber smells like or read the letters on their shirt, the habits and associations we are forming today away from the table, can build lasting healthy choices by making kale, broccoli and sweet potatoes just as fun in the bath and on the playground as they are on the table.


To CELERYbrate all things fruit and veggies, we have partnered with Little Foodie and Eat Pretty Darling for an epic giveaway (valued over $100!).

Head on over to Instagram to enter! Giveaway ends end of day Saturday, 1/26/19. Good luck!
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Interview with Katie Blauser - Eat Pretty Darling

Posted by Allyson Owens on

We'd like to introduce you to Katie - food lover, mom, photographer and blogger at Eat Pretty Darling. We discovered Katie on Instagram with her visually stunning food posts that are fun and appeal to young eaters. We love a momma who shares the same mission as Pleni Naturals - to inspire kiddos to eat healthy foods! So without further ado, let's get to know Katie a little better - and enjoy some adorable photos of Katie's boys using the Pleni Naturals products during bath time!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you started your blog. 
I have a degree in Commercial Photography and have been a professional photographer for 10 years! I've gotten to travel the world photographing weddings and meeting some really awesome people along the way. I run my photography business from home with my two boys (and baby #3 on the way!) and it's pretty much chaos! I have always loved cooking and exploring new foods but I married my husband who is insanely picky. Our oldest son is super picky too, and luckily our little one is currently a human garbage disposal :D I was already trying new recipes and tricks to get both my adult and kid picky eater to eat, so I thought I'd share what worked for us with other families that have the same problems.
How do you balance work life with family life? 
During my busy photography season (June through November here in Ohio) it can be totally overwhelming. With working from home and kids there with me all day, working throughout the day is nearly impossible! I do most of my photo shoots on nights and weekends (when my husband can hang with the kids) and then I edit and do all the management of my business after the kids go to bed. Lot's of late nights for me! I have learned that it's okay to ask for help when you need it and I am so fortunate to have family close by. My parents and in-laws both help us out so much with watching the boys. But no matter what, we always eat meals together. Even if my husband's working late, the boys and I are at the table chatting and eating. Sometimes if we know Dad won't be home for dinner, we plan a special family breakfast so we get that time together. Meal time is a really special time for us!
We found you on Instagram. How could we not? Your photos are so visually stunning! Which of your posts get the most attention? 
My picky eater tips are definitely the most popular. I think that's because they are the most helpful to other moms out there struggling just like me to get their family to eat a meal. I try to keep my recipes simple and easy so it's something doable for a busy mom but still yummy looking enough for a picky eater! My food art gets lots of smiles and laughs too. It's a fun creative outlet for me.
If you had to pick one kitchen gadget that you couldn't live without, what would it be and why?
Hmm... This one is hard because I cook almost every day and own pretty much every kitchen gadget out there! Currently, I couldn't live without my immersion blender. Our actual blender broke 2 years ago and we never replaced it since I had an immersion blender. We use it for smoothies, baby food, hiding veggies in sauces, and pretty much anything else that needs to be pureed! I use it almost daily, smoothies (aka milkshakes according to my toddler) are very popular at our house! 
Can you share your favorite meal to cook for your kids? I know mine would be something that can be prepared in 20 minutes! :)
Convenience it totally key! While I do cook most days, I never make elaborate meals. Usually because my kids can barely wait the 20 minutes it takes me to cook, and chances are it it's fancy, my family won't eat it. These Turkey Burger Pops are a favorite at our house! It's quick to mix up (we even make them smaller and into meatballs to bake in the oven during the colder months!) and I really just serve most meals with fresh fruits and veggies. They don't always get eaten but exposure is helpful for my picky eater. I personally throw the burger on a bun, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, ketchup, and pickles. 
What are some favorite veggies in your home and how do you prepare them for your family? 
Carrots are the all time favorite for my whole family. Ironically, both of my picky eaters prefer them plain and raw! My little one and I both love cucumbers! I love to put them on sandwiches to add some yummy crunch. We also eat them plain often too. I try to keep it pretty simple in the kitchen so it's less work for me!
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We the Mountains!

Posted by Allyson Owens on

As a family, we've actually been thinking about moving for a couple of years. We love California and have extended family there - but the cost of living is extremely expensive in our California town and we really wanted to buy a house (we've been crammed in a 2 bedroom condo for years and are ready to have some SPACE and some glorious GRASS!). Of all the choices of where to move with healthy living in mind and an outdoor lifestyle, we chose Boulder, CO as the new home town for our family -  and our business! Pleni Naturals is now officially a Colorado LLC! If you purchased products from our website within the last few months you may have notice that on your return label the products didn't ship from California; they shipped from our new location in Boulder! 

Our transition to Boulder has been pretty seamless. The kids are enjoying their new school, they have friends and are involved in activities, and the people here have been very warm and welcoming. Probably the most difficult part of our move has been getting our condo in California ready to sell (which we did) and the endless paperwork, etc. moving the Pleni Naturals business to Colorado ;).  It's all worth it in the end! The kids' have been to a couple of Birthday parties already and Liam recently celebrated his 6th Birthday with lots of new friends at a trampoline park nearby. Rhys' 8th Birthday party is around the corner (a pottery party at the local art studio - she's my little artist) and she is having her first sleepover really soon.

To back up a little bit, about a month after moving from California to Colorado we started looking for a house to buy. Knowing we wanted to buy a house within 6 months after moving to Boulder, we decided to rent a furnished house at first and put our stuff in storage so we wouldn't have to move everything twice. It's been hard and freeing at the same time not having all of our belongings with us! As it turns out, real estate in Boulder is a bit crazy! The market is very competitive and pricey here - just like Northern California (but homes here are not QUITE as expensive). After being crammed in our California condo with two kids for years, we had a couple of prerequisites for the house in Boulder being 1)  Super important to have a two car garage. There are many houses here with a 1 car garage and having space for our cars and storage is really important to us 2) We need at least 3,000 sq ft of living space. No more air mattresses for our guests! We definitely wanted a guest bedroom for family and friends when they visited and a dedicated play space for the kids besides their room and 3) The house couldn't be a total rehab job. We just don't have the time or patience for that. If the house is livable as is and we can work on stuff over time - we can do that. 

We looked at a lot of houses and there were a few that fit our basic criteria but I didn't like them for one reason or another (weird floor plan, back yard didn't feel private, only a 1 car garage, etc.). Then we found a house we really liked and put an offer on it. There were 8 offers on the house and 1/2 of them were over asking price! What?! Are we in the Bay Area or Boulder?! Needless to say, we didn't get that house. About a week later our real estate agent sent us another listing and the house looked really promising from the photos. I went to see the house and right away - seriously loved it! The house just felt GOOD. It fit all of our criteria and I liked it! This is promising! My husband Shane came to see the house the next day and he felt the same about the house as me. So we put an offer on the house and thought we wouldn't get it because of our previous experience. But guess what?! Somehow we got the house! Yay! We finally have our home that we have been wanting for years!

The house already has some great landscaping but I've always wanted to have a bee and butterfly habitat in our yard so I picked up something called a "garden in a box" that is offered here in Boulder. I am finally digging in some dirt in the ground (as opposed to pots, which is all I could do before in our condo) and it feels so good! I can't wait to watch the bees and butterflies doing their thing in our yard (with all the bunnies, too ...there are so many bunnies around our neighborhood!).

We are getting ready to paint the house with a non-toxic option from Benjamin Moore (their Natura® Paint collection) and will take measures to make sure our home is as non-toxic as possible, as this is obviously really important to us. As I selct things for our new home, I will be referring back to some go-to bloggers and all around nice and well-informed gals Janny - Janny Organically, Molly - Maison Pur, Lisa - This Organic Girl and Suzi - Girl Gone Green (I am sure I am missing a few others) as they have great reviews and tips on non-toxic living on their respective blogs.

I plan on writing another post with what non-toxic options we decided to use in our house and will share in time! Running a product company and blogging feel like two separate businesses for me - but I am trying! :)

Thanks for reading! And Boulder - you have another new local skin care line in town! Folks here love shopping and supporting local and I can't wait to see what new doors open for Pleni Naturals.

PS I am big into local, too. Like the photographer I used to take these photos. Thanks, Haley! She has an awesome feed on Instagram too @motherlovinyogi. Here are a few more photos from our shoot with Haley.






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Garden Inspiration - by House of Hurleys

Posted by Allyson Owens on

We discovered Cristin (CC) Hurley on Instagram and she is living all of our gardening dreams. CC lives with her family (twins, a sweet little baby on the way and her husband) in California - in her late grandmother's house - the house her mother was raised in!  Keep reading to learn more about where CC's garden inspiration comes from and some super helpful tips for starting your own garden! xo, Allyson/Pleni Naturals

Spring, it’s finally here! The time of year that all gardeners long for. The time to dig out your seed packets and start planning on what you want to grow in your summer garden. The time of big harvest dreams, ripe juicy tomatoes, crispy cucumbers, spicy radishes, sugary sweet figs and and the scent of fresh cut flowers straight from the garden. 

As a child I could always find my mom in the backyard planting or harvesting something for dinner that night. The earliest memory I have from my childhood garden is when I was four years old. I would pick handfuls of my moms' blackberries right from the thorny vine. I was supposed to be collecting them for the jam she was going to make, but I could never help but taste test a few. They were the sweetest, juiciest blackberries I have ever tasted. When I would pick them they would still be warm from the hot summer sun and burst with sweet juice in my mouth. My mom definitely passed down her love of gardening to me as well as the passion for growing my own nutrient rich organic produce to feed my family. When I grew up and moved out of the house and into my own place, I always had some sort of garden growing even on my apartment patio’s. Whether it was just herbs or a couple of container tomatoes, I always made sure to be growing something. After buying and selling our first home, we decided to move into my late grandmother’s home that my mom grew up in. It has a lovely backyard that we are slowing turning into a little food forest of our own. I was so excited to share the love of gardening with my twin daughters in our new yard, so we began to plant. Every season that passed we tried a new variety of vegetable. We currently have the following growing in our garden; lettuce, scarlet runner beans, purple bush beans, two types of kale, sugar snap peas, golden fall raspberries, potatoes, celery, herbs, squash, pumpkins, beets, swiss chard, tomatoes, a volunteer passionfruit vine, broad beans, garlic, cabbage and dragon fruit. We also have a little patch dedicated to wildflowers and milkweed for our beloved monarchs. The wildflower patch gives our garden a nice bright and refreshing pop of color. We have planted several fruit trees as well. We currently have a tangerine, weeping mulberry, red baron peach, sundowner apple, Santa Rosa plum and my favorite tree of them all is our mystery fig tree. Let me tell you why... 

About 15 years ago when my grandmother was still alive, she was showing me around the backyard. I stopped and asked her about a tiny fig tree sprout I saw growing along her back fence. She began to tell me all about how one of the birds that she feeds came and dropped a fig in the yard and it ended up sprouting. That day we decided to leave the tiny fig tree in its place and not remove it. Every summer, this massive tree gives us hundreds of beautiful juicy green figs with bright pink centers. My daughters love to pick and eat them straight from the tree. They also enjoy helping me make fig preserves that we give away to friends and enjoy eating ourselves all winter long. See, having a garden and growing your own food not only gives you fresh and healthy organic produce, but it gets people connected to their food while learning where it comes from and how it grows. 
When planting your first garden you have a few options in getting started. One option would be to use plant starts which you would buy at a nursery. Me being impatient, I have done this many times! Its a great way to get something growing right away in your garden. There are however some downsides to that as well. Sometimes the plants are not always the healthiest since they have been shipped in from all over the country. Also, most of the time the nursery's just offer generic fruits and veggies that you would typically see at your local grocery store. So, if you are wanting to try and grow some unique varieties your best option would be to grow some plants from seed. There are many great places to buy seeds, here are my top three favorite seed companies. Baker creek seed company has a plethora of seeds to choose from. They have some very rare seeds that have been sourced all over the globe. You can buy their seeds on their website. Second, Luke and Sindy from Migardener who have an incredible youtube channel where they have loads of information on how to grow pretty much anything! They also have a fabulous seed store with tons of varieties for only $.99 a packet! They offer by far the least expensive seeds that I have ever found. Also, I have never once had a germination issue with any of their seeds! Botanical interests is a company that sell their seeds in many nursery's and online. They have many great seeds options, and I also like that if I happen to be at the nursery picking up a bag of dirt I can check out their seeds as well. 
That leads me into what soil I have had success using in my garden. Our family does make our own homemade compost, but unfortunately we do not make enough to fill the size of our garden space. The best store bought compost that we use to supplement our own compost is Eb Stones Organic compost. I like to use compost along with store bought worm castings for added minerals and nutrients to the soil. Without using various soils and amendments, these two components offer a great and simple start for your first garden. This Spring get in the garden and start planting! It doesn’t have to be anything big, just start off small and you will see how rewarding it is when you are enjoying your first harvest! 
Happy Gardening! 
C.C. Hurley 


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Best Non-Toxic Shampoo for Everyone in the Family

Posted by Allyson Owens on

Micaela from Mindful Momma wrote this great blog post which is a roundup of the best natural, non-toxic shampoo brands for every type of hair, including natural shampoo for babies and affordable family-sized shampoo. Thank you for including Pleni Natural's Apple + Broccoli Hair & Body Wash! You can read the blog post here.
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