It’s Jou Life has moved // New site address: itsjoulife.com

It’s Jou Life has moved! New site address:

http://www.itsjoulife.com

It’s Jou Life | a DIY / lifestyle blog—musing about natural, healthy, artisanal living, and everything in between.

Go to our new site and join our mailing list by entering your email (top right column section) and receive an email each time we post!

New It's Jou Life site // https://itsjoulife.com/

Go to our newly remodeled site // itsjoulife.com

 

Friends of Ours.

Hello, and welcome to It’s Jou Life! We’re Wayne and Jennifer, a (relatively) newly wed couple who found love in the most unexpecting place. This is our DIY / lifestyle blog—musing about natural, healthy, artisanal living, and everything in between.

We started this blog because our family and friends always ask us how we grow our own organic vegetables, what is Wayne woodworking on now, to send over our miso black cod recipe, what snacks stock our pantry, a tutorial on that cute zippered pouch, tips for marathon running, where do we worship, what to bring for a camping trip, what’s Jennifer’s skincare regimen… you get the idea. This is our way to share life’s loves.

Wayne of all trades is an engineer by day and a woodworker/gardener/chef by night. Jennifer is an activist, artist, actress, and an alliterations addict. You would often find us dancing to our own beat, exploring the great outdoors, at home watching Netflix, and hand crafting everything we own. We find the beauty in our every day, with each other, and in the Lord our Savior.

We both live to create with purpose and hopes to inspire. Thank you for joining us as we try to do all things with love. Here is a glimpse into our quirky lives.

//

We’ve refreshed and re-launched our It’s Jou Life blog to streamline and create more content that is relevant in our lives.

It’s Jou Life has moved! New site address:

http://www.itsjoulife.com

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Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding via It's Jou Life // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/magnolia-bakerys-delectable-banana-pudding-recipe

Magnolia Bakery’s Delectable Banana Pudding // Recipe

Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding Recipe via It's Jou Life Blog // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/07/25/magnolia-bakerys-delectable-banana-pudding-recipe

The dessert that left a sweet handprint on my heart. After coming back from our New York trip, first on our list was to make that fluffy, yet ooey-gooey Banana Pudding dessert from Magnolia Bakery. Although this easy recipe doesn’t involve baking, this dessert does require some planning. One of the beginning steps involves at least 4 hours (or overnight) for the pudding to firm and 30 minutes as the last step to set the dish. Just make sure to read this recipe from beginning to end before inviting your guests over for dessert night.

Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding

Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups water

2/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

3 cups heavy cream

1 (12-ounce) box vanilla wafers

4 bananas, sliced

DIRECTIONS

Mix together the water, pudding mix, and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight until it sets up.

Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Working in thirds, fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until well incorporated.

In a trifle bowl, layer vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and pudding mixture; continue until you’ve used up all the pudding mixture. Refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes before serving.

Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding via It's Jou Life // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/magnolia-bakerys-delectable-banana-pudding-recipe

The first layer of fluffy pudding goodness, sliced bananas and Nilla wafers

Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding via It's Jou Life // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/magnolia-bakerys-delectable-banana-pudding-recipeMagnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding via It's Jou Life // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/magnolia-bakerys-delectable-banana-pudding-recipeMagnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding via It's Jou Life // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/magnolia-bakerys-delectable-banana-pudding-recipe

This recipe is exclusive from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook by Jennifer Appel and Allysa Torey. Photograph copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Jou.

 

 

How to be yelp elite + stay elite // tips

Yelp2

 

My Motto: Camera Eats First. I consistently stuff food photos in my honest Yelp reviews and on the growl for eclectic events and delectable dishes. I Yelp to give back, to try the hippest or hole-in-the wall establishment and to meet vibrant people.

When I started Yelping back in the end of 2010 it was to give back to the Yelp community since I always referenced the app for new discoveries. It wasn’t until my good friends became Yelp Elite and told me about this secret society (but totally accessible for influencers willing to put in the effort!). I continued to be diligent with my reviews and received my first Elite badge within three months.

Now going six years strong as an Elite (and Elite Gold), being Yelp Elite goes beyond fancy invitations to exclusive free events at restaurants and complimentary tickets to the hottest shows in town—it’s the sense of community and deeper love for the city I live in. I’ve met one of my good friends at an Elite event, discovered favorite dining establishments and opportunities to explore beautiful Los Angeles.

This is how I became Yelp Elite within three months and stayed Elite for six years.

Create a Yelp profile with accurate information. To qualify to become a Yelp Elite, you must post a clear face photo of yourself and use your real first and last name (it’ll display as your first name and last name initial). You’ll be asked fun questions about yourself, so be real and genuine.

Download the Yelp app to your smart phone. This is for convenience so you can browse easily, check-in at places, write tips and directly upload photos from your phone to the business. Convenience helps me interact and I even write reviews directly in the Yelp app! Check-in at places also has its perks. Some establishments offer discounts and free items when you check-in. Also you can become the Duke or Duchess when you’re the top person checked in at that place.

Write honest and candid reviews you’d want to read.

What do you look for when reading other people’s reviews? This will help structure and focus your review to be useful for others.

Be descriptive, but not lengthy. Choose your words wisely. I’m sometimes guilty of writing lengthy reviews (such a hassle to scroll down forever to read on the phone), but lately I’ve been more mindful to include the most important information in the first couple paragraphs and then go into detail. Readers can decide to read further if they want more information.

Build credibility with your readers. If you make a bold statement, be prepared to back it up. Take writing reviews seriously. Sometimes a 1 star review and description of “parking was hard to find” doesn’t validate the rating. If you give a low rating, provide a valid reason.

Take photos of your food and ambience of the business. I love taking photos. Camera eats first! Photos help people make better decisions that align with their expectations. I’m a visual person and prefer to know what I’m getting, especially if it’s something I haven’t tried or someplace I haven’t been before. (Eg. Taking photos of the buffet selection or inside of a gym and its equipment)

Avoid using a Yelp review to hide behind your complaining words. If you aren’t satisfied with service or food, take the time to talk to your server or the manager, in person. This is always the best way to resolve issues. It helps improve the business, and in turn, provide a better experience for others.

Quantity vs Quality. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think it’s about how many reviews or how many friends you have on Yelp that makes you Elite. I became Yelp Elite with around 60 reviews, but I spent time and effort on each of them. I was descriptive and honest with my reviews, posted photos of what I ate, got creative with some of them (wrote a haiku about a favorite ramen shop) and added bonus tips like best places to park, whether the gym had towel service, etc.

Be active within the Yelp Community. Show some love to others! Whenever I enjoy reading a helpful or funny review, I always click the “Useful, Funny or Cool” buttons below the review and send a Compliment to the reviewer.

Keep in mind every year status is up for review, so no slacking! If you found this helpful, please comment below and add me as a friend on Yelp, referencing this post!

My Yelp page // http://msjennifer.yelp.com

 

Growing trends of the natural and organic products industry // Natural Products Expo West 2016

IMG_6632The US-market of natural and organic products is a $153 billion industry and showing no signs of a slow down. Mainly driven by the consistent growth of consumers demanding natural, healthy and eco-conscious products, it’s no surprise that this mega industry has a plethora of new companies emerging every year.

Last month I had the delightful opportunity to attend the 36th annual Natural Products Expo West, the the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event. It was like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. As a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, I grasped all the natural product consumer trends, channeled my inner Augustus Gloop meets Michelle Phan–indulging in food samples while swatching beauty products. It was a weekend filled with tastings, education and meeting wonderful brands. I was among 77,000 attendees perusing more than 3,000 exhibitors at the Anaheim Convention Center. I didn’t have my Fitbit on me, but I’m sure I logged some serious miles that weekend.

NewHope

Photo courtesy of NewHope.com

Below is an overview of some consumer trends surrounding the healthy lifestyle products industry.

Back to Our Roots: Quinoa, chia, acai, Kombucha, raw, sprouted, coconut oil–superfood ingredients and preparation techniques that date back to the days of pre-industrialized foods. Brands are focusing on natural, whole and nutrient-dense ingredients. The skincare industry mirrors this trend with using pure ingredients like argan and coconut oil. I met a brand, Cocokind, an organic skincare line centered around using virgin coconut oil and superfoods. Consumers are conscientious with ingredients they eat and use on their body. They are staying away from genetically modified foods, artificial colors, preservatives, parabens and products tested on animals.

The Busy Individual: The always on-the-go individual lacks time, but craves smart and nutritious fuel in-between meals. Think hand-held snacks and drinks that are convenient, delicious and healthy. I like to kick-off my morning with drinking my greens with a Suja Juice cold-pressed juice. On a side note: I’m thinking of doing a juice cleanse to reset my body. Any advice or recommendations for which juice brand to try? A new product I’ve discovered are meat and veggie bars from Wild Zora and Wilde Snacks. It’s healthier than conventional jerkies because they are free from nitrites, nitrates, MSG, not too salty, contain vegetables, use grass-fed, free-range and hormone-free meats. I’m a big snacker and sometimes crave a meaty snack high in protein and low in sodium. Read my favorite snack discovery last year here.

The Socially Conscious Shopper: The today consumers have conscious living woven into the fabric of their lives and making informed decisions by keeping the environment and mission-backed products in mind. They choose purposeful brands with ethical practices and sustainable packaging over its conventional counterparts. I met a brand, This Bar Saves Lives, that donates a life-saving food packet with every snack bar purchased. It’s the “buy one, give one” philosophy, fair trade practices and donating proceeds to non-profits that allow consumers to make an impact with each purchase.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing with you my tried and true favorite products from the expo.

Lion’s Head Meatballs, Chinese Food // recipe

 Lion's Head Meatball Recipe via It's Jou Life Blog // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/lions-head-meatballs-chinese-food-recipeServes 4

A favorite dish of mine from childhood, it’s perfect comfort food for a cold winter night and surprisingly easy to make. It’s traditionally made with fatty ground pork, but I opted for ground turkey. The dish is sort of a stew but lighter: The meatballs, greens, and a little broth are all spooned over rice noodles. It’s commonly known as lion’s head meatballs, because the wavy greens or noodles ringing the meatballs look like…a lion’s mane? In Chinese, they’re called shih tzu tou, so maybe they’re really supposed to look like little shih tzu lapdog heads. Even if they are taxonomically ambiguous, they are inarguably tasty and incredibly easy to make.

Ingredients

1 lb ground pork (I opted for ground turkey)

1 C chopped scallions

2 T soy sauce

1 T sugar

1 T Shaoxing wine

1 T minced garlic

1 T minced fresh ginger

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t sesame oil

1 egg

2 T cornstarch

Neutral oil

1 lb napa cabbage or bok choy, leaves separated, chopped if desired

2 C chicken broth

White pepper

Cooked rice noodles or rice, for serving

Directions

  1. Put the pork in a large bowl and break it up with your hands. Add the scallions, soy sauce, sugar, wine, garlic, ginger, salt, and sesame oil and work the mixture to combine. Add the egg and cornstarch and vigorously mix, picking up and slapping the mixture back into the bowl a few times to create a tacky texture. Roll the meat into eight 2-inch balls. (Note: Keep in mind if you opted for ground turkey, instead of pork, it doesn’t hold its shape as well. Be gentle when forming the 2-inch balls and searing them in the pan. Don’t worry, it’ll taste just as delicious)
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven and add enough meatballs to fit comfortably in a single layer. Sear them until browned all over, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with any remaining meatballs. Remove the pan from the heat and wipe out the pan.
  3. Line the pan with the cabbage or bok choy, arrange the meatballs in a snug single layer on top, and add broth to come within 1/4 inch of the tops of the meatballs. Cover the pot and set over medium heat. Gently simmer until the greens are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve over rice noodles or with steamed rice.

Lion's Head Meatball Recipe via It's Jou Life Blog // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/lions-head-meatballs-chinese-food-recipeLion's Head Meatball Recipe via It's Jou Life Blog // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/lions-head-meatballs-chinese-food-recipeLion's Head Meatball Recipe via It's Jou Life Blog // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/lions-head-meatballs-chinese-food-recipeThis recipe is exclusive from LUCKY PEACH PRESENTS 101 EASY ASIAN RECIPES. Copyright © 2015 by Peter Meehan. Photograph copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Jou

What I’m currently snacking on…

Snacks

I’m a snacker. It’s no secret once you open the doors of my pantry closet. I’m obsessed with discovering and trying new healthy, natural snacks.

Nature’s Bakery // Fig Bar

Last year I made the magical discovery of Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar. I’ve been in love ever since and buying it in bulk and sharing it with friends have been a favorite past time of mine. I got many hooked. My BFF describes it “as good as eating cake.” This is basically a glorified and healthy fig bar that made of stone ground whole wheat, non-GMO, no artificial flavors or colorings, vegan and Kosher Certified. Each pack comes with two bars and sometimes I have one pre and post workout. I always have a pack in my purse, office and work for when I’m hungry and on the go. The company, Nature’s Bakery, supports healthy conscious living and active lifestyles. They also make gluten-free bars. My favorite flavor is Apple Cinnamon.

Tip: You can buy Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars on Amazon (click on the link or the small thumbnail above) or buy it in bulk at Costco. It’s also sold at natural grocery markets like Whole Foods. With 110 calories per bar, this isn’t a low-calorie food. 

SnacksFig

SnacksFigBars

Healthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via Its Jou Life Blog // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-balls

recipe // walnut and date cocoa energy balls

Healthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via Its Jou Life Blog // https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-balls

Lately I find myself getting hungry between meals at work, rushing to workout classes and running errands. These healthy walnut + date cocoa balls have been a staple in my every day. It not only provides protein and energy to get me through my long days, but also hits my sweet tooth cravings–guilt-free. Best of all, it’s so easy to make.

Walnut and Date Cocoa Energy Balls

Prep: 15 minutes

Yields: Approx. 19, depending on size

Ingredients

1 cup raw walnuts (or ½ cup raw walnuts and ½ cup raw almonds)

1 cup firmly packed pitted dates (slightly softened)

2 T goji berries (optional)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Optional: dash of ground cinnamon, raw honey

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor, and process until extremely fine. Tip: If the dates were in the fridge, let it soften in room-temperature for about 15 min. Not required though. I just find it blends and have a more favorable texture if slightly softened.
  2. Taste mixture. Tip: If the mixture isn’t sweet or on the dry/crumbly side, add a few drizzles of raw honey. Process again.
  3. Shape into 1” balls. Tip: I like to use a mini ice cream scooper and then roll between my palms.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Good for about a week.

Healthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via It's Jou Life https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-ballsHealthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via It's Jou Life https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-ballsHealthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via It's Jou Life https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-ballsHealthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via It's Jou Life https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-ballsHealthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via It's Jou Life https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-ballsHealthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via It's Jou Life https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-ballsHealthy Walnut + Date Cocoa Energy Balls via It's Jou Life https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/recipe-walnut-and-date-cocoa-energy-balls

Day 8 // Outsmart Your Appetite for Sugar | Birchbox Challenge

My favorite healthy snacks #BirchboxChallenge Day 7 // via It's Jou Life blog - https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/?p=1112

I have an insane sweet tooth. I crave chocolate (most) times of the day. Recently Compartes (those retro, gorgeous packaged, eccentric flavor chocolate bars) have been infiltrating into my thoughts. (Okay, sugar has already distracted me from the message of this post).

When chocolates and cupcakes beckon me, I tend to distract myself by eating a healthy alternative, take a 15 minute walk around the block or check my Instagram feed. Most of the time the urge will subside.

My favorite snack alternatives:

Apple & Natural Peanut Butter – I love the salty + sweet flavor combination. It reminds me of the healthier alternative to candied apples. The fiber of the apple and protein of the peanut butter make the perfect pairing of a nutritious and filling snack.

My favorite healthy snacks #BirchboxChallenge Day 7 // via It's Jou Life blog - https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/?p=1112

Crackers & Cheese – My favorite crackers of the moment are Raincoast Crisps Rosemary Raisin (cheaper dupe is Trader Joes Raisin Rosemary Crisps) and any spreadable cheese.

My favorite healthy snacks #BirchboxChallenge Day 7 // via It's Jou Life blog - https://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/?p=1112

Trail Mix – I either buy it from Costco or make my own. Mixed nuts, especially walnuts are high in omega-3 and almonds help lower bad cholesterol. I like to add dried cranberries and a sprinkle of chocolate chips.

About the Birchbox Challenge

Birchbox teamed up with a panel of all-star experts to bring a 31-day challenge to make 2015 your healthiest, happiest, most gorgeous year ever. I’m joining Birchbox on this month-long challenge and will share my success with #BirchboxChallenge. Let’s do this together!

Falling for this Season – 3 Things to Try this October

It’s hard to imagine it’s already October. The fall season is here! I’ve already seen Instagram posts of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, popular Halloween costumes this year, DIY fall decor and feeling the (slightly) brisk evenings.

Pumpkin – I { heart } pumpkin. If you’re anything like me, I scour the supermarket aisles for anything and everything pumpkin! I can always depend on Trader Joes to roll out an impressive season-appropriate pumpkin collection. The Fearless Flyer of their pumpkin products can be found here. The other night I did a mini-haul of the pumpkin necessities. I’ll have to go back again because I forgot to peruse the frozen section (c’mon, how could I have forgotten to grab Pumpkin Macarons and Pumpkin Croissants?).

3 Things to Try this October via It's Jou Life blog - http://wp.me/p3cljj-fY3 Things to Try this October via It's Jou Life blog - http://wp.me/p3cljj-fY

Dark Lip Color – Dark lips are all the rage this fall. A romantic take on this classic goth/vampy look is to find a formula with a slight sheen and keep the eyes light. Lip items are possibly my favorite beauty product. I have more than I’d like to admit to. Lip products I’ve been into lately are these two full-size limited-edition Marc Jacobs Beauty items I picked up from Sephora a few months back (I got them for free by redeeming my points). I finally took them out of the box this past weekend. { Lovemarc lip gel in Caberet & Lust for Lacquer Lip Vinyl in Shooting Stars } I usually pre-treat my lips with an exfoliant lip scrub or lightly rub a damp, warm towel over my lips after I shower. This will create a smooth lip canvas before applying product.

3 Things to Try this October via It's Jou Life blog - http://wp.me/p3cljj-fY

Gone Girl – I’ve joined the October Birchbloggers Book Club and will be reading all three bone-chilling books from the bestselling author Gillian Flynn. She’s known for Gone Girl, the insanely suspenseful thriller novel-turned-film, featuring Ben Affleck (movie is already out in theaters). Flynn’s other two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects also sound like the perfect Halloween-season reads. Thanks Birchbox for sending me the series to read!

3 Things to Try this October via It's Jou Life blog - http://wp.me/p3cljj-fY

{ events } A Labor of Love — Harvest Moon Festival 2014

Harvest Moon Festival 2014 - Free event 9/7/14, Arcadia, 11am-5pm | http://wp.me/p3cljj-fd

Free Event | Sunday, September 7, 2014 | 11am – 5pm | Arcadia County Park (405 S. Santa Anita Ave, Arcadia, CA)

Drawing large crowds from across Southern California, LA 18 hosts the most exciting festival of the season.

Equivalent to Thanksgiving, the Harvest Moon Festival is a holiday celebrated by many Asian communities and revolves around the family, the provision of bountiful food and the full moon. Enjoy a family-filled FREE event with Asian street foods, live entertainment, cultural activities, shopping and prize giveaways. Entertainment includes performances by Quest CrewDavid ChoiJason Chen, Dan aka Dan, Joseph Vincent, Johnny HiFi and cultural dance performances. There will also be cash prize giveaways every hour starting at 1pm! 🙂 You can win up to $500!

The HMF holds a special place in my heart. This event was a labor of love when I worked at LA 18 KSCI-TV (Channel 18) many moons ago. I was the Entertainment Stage Manager for several years and I’ve seen it grow in attendance, sponsors and helped introduce food trucks (before they came in every color) and invigorated the talent line-up to include fresh, local and popular performing artists like Quest Crew, Far East Movement, David Choi, Jason Chen, Jennifer Chung, Clara C, Melissa Polinar, just a taste. (I LOVE their music/dance!) I’m a big fan girl of all these artists and have been humbled to have had the priviledge to work with them in past years. 

I return this year not as an employee, but as the volunteer day-of Entertainment Stage Manager. I’m filled to the brim with excitement and to dive back into collaborating with the emcees, cueing the performers, ensuring the stage is smoothly running on time (I hope!), catching up with local (and incredibly talented) Asian-American performers and working alongside former colleagues that I’ve always respected. The months leading up to event day haven’t always been easy, but come festival day with the tireless efforts of the festival team and volunteers, everything finds its place and the long days of meetings, crunching numbers, researching, writing, finalizing details, soon become a distant memory. There’s something truly beautiful about planning an event for the community. It’s creating a vision with our audience in mind, working towards goals and seeing the fruits of our labor in action. Best of all, it’s executing a free event that attendees of all ages can enjoy and are appreciated by those who make our great city diverse and cultured.

I know the day may not go smoothly as planned. There will be last-minute changes and unforeseen surprises, but I know God will provide me the strength and energy to power through all obstacles no matter how big or small, while allowing me to take a breather and appreciate Southern California’s gorgeous weather, the people and enjoy the festivities. 

For those in the area, please stop by! Feel free to text me, I’d love to see you and share a moon cake together. 

Last year’s HMF 2013