Friday, December 23, 2016

Last Minute Gifts You Are Never "Too Late" For

Hopefully all of your holiday shopping is done and you are nice and relaxed...in that groove of just enjoying all that is going on around you.  But...if you are finding yourself panicked about those last-minute gifts you didn't get and the fact that you are now "out of time," get your loved ones something digital.  It's NEVER "too late"...that's just a story we tell ourselves.  There are always solutions.  Here are a couple of my suggestions...

1. Access to "Food Matters TV (FMTV)," where they have amazing documentaries and other content around healthy eating and mind/body/spirit stuff...and they add new videos each week.

2. Something from "Sounds True"...loads of awesome life improvement stuff from meditation to online courses, audio, video, etc...just hit the little "shop by category" tab in the upper left, and it is all sorted out for you.

3. A mindbodygreen class...there are so many topics to choose from including yoga, meditation, fitness, nutrition, home, relationships, etc.  So many goodies to check out!

What's better than helping someone live a healthier and fuller life?!  It's truly the gift that keeps on giving (and you can get it right up to the last minute!)  Good luck out there!  I am hoping to continue with some more of my faves between Christmas and New Years...there are so many I haven't gotten to yet!  That's a good "problem" to have!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Helping Hands

I have always loved scents.  Give me a good song to listen to, and a sweet scent to smell, and I am happy.  There are so many cues around us that tell us it's the "Holiday Season."  One of my favorites is the various smells.

Today I bring you two hand lotions that are sure to make you (and the people around you) feel festive!  The first one will blow your mind...er...*record scratch*...oops!  I just went to look up the link for this one, and it appears the company (Soap & Paper Factory) did not make their holiday scented hand cream this year.  Such a bummer!  I really can't believe it, because they sold out quickly last year everywhere I went.  So grateful I scored an extra for myself!  However, fingers (and toes) crossed they come back next year, because I have never gotten so many compliments before...people wondering if I had just cut down a Christmas Tree ("Frosted Pine" scent)...not kidding.  In the meantime, you can check out their other lovely hand cream scents (which fit perfectly in just about any purse you might be carrying).  They are super luxurious and would make awesome stocking stuffers!  Also note that the "Roland Pine" scent appears to be the same as the "Frosted Pine" from the past (or at least similar), but for now they only have it in soap, candles, room pray, diffusers, potpourri, etc.  Good stuff!
Soap & Paper Factory - Snow Drop Collection "Frosted Pine" Hand Cream & Indigo Wild "Frankincense & Myrrh Zum Body Lotion"
I did some searching around to find a good "Pine/Fir/Spruce" replacement hand cream to suggest, but I was stumped.  I know there are some out there, but I couldn't find any that meet my safe-ingredient-list-standards!  Then I remembered a product my father received as a gift from one of his customers a few years back.  I discovered it while visiting my parents house.  I found myself sniffing around to find the source of the awesome smell I was smelling, and I finally figured out what it was...my dad's hand salve.  It is called "Hard Core Hand Care," and the scent is "New England Woods."  It has an impressive ingredient list, and it is made not too far away in New Hampshire.  This is a great find for the loved ones in your life who have jobs/hobbies that beat-up their hands...note, it comes in a tin instead of a tube.  I tried it for myself, and this is some serious hand healing!  Check it out!

One of my very favorite scents of all-time, not just during the holidays, is Frankincense.  I really love it at church when they use the incense burner on and around the altar.  There is just something about it that transports me...takes me back...and lifts me up.  I just feel more connected to my roots and to God.  It is like it grounds me and enlightens me all at the same time.  Maybe it is triggering some sort of epigenetic response of my ancestors...whatever it is, I love it!  This time of year when I smell Frankincense and Myrrh I imagine the journey of the Wisemen and the feeling in the air that Holy Night.  All of those warm feelings and images are evoked when I use my "Frankincense & Myrrh Zum Body Lotion" by Indigo Wild.  Personally I only reserve it for use as a hand lotion, which I keep by the door for when I am running out into the cold.  It is silky smooth and packed full of hydrating and soothing ingredients.  And each time I catch a whiff of it I smile and feel content.  The power of aromatherapy!

Maybe you have a practitioner, mail-person, teacher, friend, or someone in your life you want to give a little holiday "Thank You" to...or maybe you deserve to treat yourself for almost making it to the finish-line of the most wonderful (and stressful) time of the year!  For whatever reason...these are the perfect little treasures to pick-up and have on hand this season.


Monday, December 19, 2016

I've Got A Cookie For That

My first education in food allergies came not long after my son was born in 2008.  He was a lethargic eater with digestive issues.  His pediatrician sent us to a G.I. doc who said, "reflux," prescribed "Zantac," and told me there was nothing else I could do...other than raising the head of his bassinet.  My mommy-intuition told me there was more to it, so I started my research.  I found that dairy/soy allergies are fairly common in infants (at least those presenting with digestive issues), so I cut dairy and soy out of my diet (because I was exclusively breastfeeding).  Once the proteins had a chance to work their way out of my system my son did so much better and finally started to gain some weight!  Lessons learned...food is a powerful solution, and always trust your gut!

I sort of panicked thinking about not having desserts, since most contain dairy or soy in some form (this was back before my health crashed and I gave up all sugar).  My searching brought me to Erin McKenna and her beautiful Gluten-Free and Vegan "Babycakes Bakery."  Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to make it to NYC to enjoy her treats, but as luck would have it she had a cookbook!  I ordered it right away and started baking.  I think I literally made everything in her first book...as evidenced by the beat-up and stained pages.  Our favorites were her chocolate chip cookies and banana bread.  I was so impressed with her story, and her desire to create a safe place for kids and adults alike to come and enjoy sweet treats...but even more impressed that they actually tasted delicious!  (I was skeptical since this was my first experience in the "allergy-friendly baking world," and baking was sort of my thing.)

Erin McKenna's second cookbook which includes the sugar cookie recipe
I continued to follow Erin's every move...she opened a couple more bakery locations, and I kept my fingers crossed for the addition of a Boston shop...still waiting...  Thankfully she put out another cookbook for all of us ravenous fans!  Once again I made my way through the gorgeous pages (it really is a work of food art), enjoying each recipe.  However, it was always sort of hanging over my head that the holidays would never be the same again.  I had so many classic, beloved, family-tradition recipes.  It was hard to let go, but when Christmas rolled around it was the perfect time to try out Erin's "Sugar Cookie" recipe.  It is AMAZING!  Seriously.  And it includes modifications to help you get your cookies just the way you like them (I happen to prefer a "cakier" cookie, which means a little more flour and less sugar.)  I have now tried 3 other "allergen-free" sugar cookie recipes, and the Babycakes one comes out heads and tails above all the rest.  It is delicious (as professed by my son and husband...but also by those who don't have food avoidances), and equally important to me is the fact that the dough is very easy to make and handle.  It rolls out well and works with tricky cutouts BEAUTIFULLY!  And one of the best parts, which is a HUGE added bonus, is that it doesn't have eggs in it, so you don't have to worry about your little ones handling the dough...or even eating it!  It is pure perfection!

Erin McKenna's Sugar Cookie Recipe (for the modifications pick up her book!)
Our finished products 2016 - including our vintage cookie-cutters, passed down from my mother
I would urge you to follow Erin McKenna & Babycakes no matter what your diet situation or preferences, because it is just better for you all around, and I PROMISE you will thoroughly enjoy her goodies.  We FINALLY got to try them straight from the bakery while at Disney World...opening a location there was total genius on her part.  I am SO HAPPY for all of the little kiddos with food allergies who can fully enjoy their Disney experience...treats and all!  I ordered one of her adorable and YUMMY birthday cakes to celebrate my son's birthday, and we ALL loved it!  I even had a little piece...vanilla cake, chocolate frosting, with maple frosting in the middle...unbelievable!

My son's delicious birthday cake from Babycakes Orlando, which delivers to Disney World Resorts/Restaurants
I hope this post will help EVERYONE find a way to celebrate and feel included in the festivities this holiday season!  ENJOY!!!


Sunday, December 18, 2016

What About Your Treat?

So many people ask me how I "treat" myself.  For about 3-4 years I didn't have a single dessert, and I still haven't touched anything with white/refined sugar for almost six years...(most of that time not so much as a piece of fruit or starchy vegetable either)!  People are blown-away, shocked really, when they find out.  "How do you do it?!" they ask, marveling at my willpower.  I tell them that they are giving me way too much credit...it's less about willpower and more about fear.  Fear is a very powerful thing.  Fear kept me locked into very black and white thinking about food...there were foods that hurt and foods that healed (feeding the Lyme, Candida, & "bad" bacteria, or starving it), and I didn't want to take any chances in setting myself back.  Dropping the gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, etc. seemed to be a major factor in my getting better and then managing my symptoms as I went forward on my healing journey.  That was good enough for me!

In the last year or two I have experimented a little bit more with breaking out of my core diet staples...not a lot, but I have found ways to "indulge" on my own terms.  It is key to flip your thinking upside-down, and instead of wasting energy focusing on what you "can't" have/do get creative with what you "can" have/do.  You would be surprised what you can come up with!  It is also an amazing turning point when you stop feeling like you are missing out and realize that you love yourself enough to provide your body with only the very best fuel.  It is extremely empowering!

The other important thing to realize is that emotions are tied to eating...BIG TIME...and not just for those with true eating disorders.  I associated treats with good times.  Growing up we weren't allowed to have junk food or many sweets (if we did have them they were homemade).  These foods were reserved for special occasions, so my brain associated those foods with happy memories.  Then when I was old enough to make my own food choices I overindulged in sweets, to the point that I was addicted (we now know sugar is more addictive than cocaine).  If I couldn't get my hands on something sugary I would literally go to the pantry and stick a spoon in the bag of sugar and eat it straight.  As an adult I would reward myself with food after college exams, or a hard day of work...comfort myself with food when I had to do something stressful or if I was upset about something...and of course celebrate anything and everything I could come up with (cupcakes were my #1 obsession).  It's not a sin by any means, but it is something really worth exploring more through journaling, therapy, or just mindful awareness and curiosity.  That is how we can loosen the old tethers and make positive habit changes for ourselves.

Now on to the good part!  MY go-to treats!  First, I have ALWAYS LOVED chocolate.  Unfortunately many varieties are low-quality and loaded with refined sugar and other toxic ingredients.  Healthy cocoa/cacao crops (organic, non-GMO, etc.) that are processed in a pure/clean way can actually be very good for you!  On the other hand, heavily sprayed or modified versions, processed with chemicals and stored in a way that accumulates molds can actually be detrimental to your health.

That's where "Not Your Sugar Mamas" comes to the rescue!  One day while investigating the extensive chocolate section at my local health food store I did what I always do...scan for unfamiliar labels and immediately flip over any new finds to study their ingredient list.  Usually there is SOMETHING that makes me have to put them back in their cute little display box.  This time I was pleasantly surprised..."Organic raw cacao powder, organic raw cacao butter, organic grade B maple syrup, organic Madagascar vanilla bean."  (Hello...maple syrup?!  The healing properties of that liquid gold alone merits its own blog post!)  I did a little happy dance right then and there before I grabbed a couple bars and checked out.  I couldn't wait to get home to savor my newly found treasure in peace.  It did NOT disappoint!  I broke off a square and let it melt in my mouth...then the next one I bit off and chewed.  There is just something so rich and satisfying about this chocolate!  The fact that it is high quality is obvious, but there is something else that is so special about it that I can't quite put into words.

My "Not Your Sugar Mamas - Pure & Simple" minis are not only cute but portable, too! 
When I went to the "Not Your Sugar Mamas" website it became clear.  Their ingredients, their story, their philosophy...they had me at "everything is energy."  These are my peeps, my tribe, speaking my language!  The founders, Bennett & Ky, are a couple of super cool yoga chicks who really get it...spreading "health, happiness, and love" in their own special way.  Now THAT is how to really rock life!  And they are doing it all from Martha's Vineyard, so they are also local (for me).  It doesn't get better than that!  I look forward to supporting this company foreva-eva...and hopefully getting to their  yummy "Organic Cafe" in the very near future!  Who wants to come along?  Start by trying their products ASAP (my son also LOVES their cookies!), and you will be hooked like me!

Not sure how many times I will feature "tea" in my "Favorite Things" blog series, but you can bet it will probably be quite a bit since tea is one of my very favorite things in life (and the health benefits are longer than any Christmas list).  You can also imagine that my discovery of chocolate tea was one of the best things that has ever happened to my tastebuds!  Seriously, though, this one will really put you in the holiday spirit.  "The Republic of Tea" totally nailed it when they created their "Peppermint Bark" flavor.  It is organic and caffeine-free, which are musts for me.  The flavor is so refreshing, soothing, and slightly sweet to satisfying your cravings.  It is a great after-meal treat.  It is just so smooth and comforting, all while rushing in the joy of the holiday season.  I love to curl up with a mug full and my favorite Christmas special, or sip it while doing my holiday baking.  It is only available for a limited time (seasonally), so try it now while you can...and if you love it, stock up so you can enjoy it all year long!

This mug tells the truth, and this tea really delivers!
I hope this blog will help even those who are the most sensitive or feel very restricted find a little more bliss for their senses.  Believe me, I get it.  There really are solutions and joy bombs out there for everyone...it's just a matter of finding yours.  Directions: savor mindfully!


Friday, December 16, 2016

A Shot of Calm...Ashwa-what?!

**First, I have to say I am not a doctor, nor am I giving medical advice.  Always consult with your healthcare providers as necessary.**

Okay...now with that out of the way I can share a favorite little secret of mine with you.  I hope none of you are feeling too stressed out by the pressure of the holiday season as you read this, but the reality is that many unfortunately are.  I want to offer a reminder that the decorating, presents, and baking aren't what it's all about.  We all get caught up in it, but it is time to cut ourselves some slack.  I would encourage you to take a step back and really reflect on why you do all those things and how the holiday can look and feel differently than the ideal you hold yourself to and still be extremely special and meaningful...and probably even more so!

I write this post as a lifelong anxiety-surfer.  There are many other categories that can encompass...fear, worry, nervousness, etc.  Anxiety wears many hats, and it can ebb and flow.  Once I became flattened with a chronic illness anxiety became a constant and giant companion.  It is such a chicken and egg thing.  I remember the anxiety roaring its head soon before I became bedridden, almost as a warning flare that something big was about to hit.  It is pretty well known that bacterial imbalances/infections like Lyme can cause anxiety...and of course anxiety can worsen any symptom, so the goal is always to try to stop the cycle and jump off the hamster wheel.

My intuition always told me that the mind and body are connected in very meaningful and inseparable ways, and now thankfully we have scientific proof to back it up.  So, when I became debilitated by a chronic illness six years ago I took the opportunity to do anything and everything to get better, and that included therapy and other mind-body practices.  I basically decided to become a guinea pig, my own science experiment.  I threw myself into meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis, brain retraining (DNRS, EFT, EMDR), yoga...really you name it.  I became a wellness warrior!  I was all-in!

What I noticed after years of doing these things is that they DO work!  Score!  However, no matter how "good" I was at them there were still times when anxiety and fear would hit me like a ton of bricks, and I couldn't always tie it to some specific mental or emotional stress in my life.  What I realized is that through the millions of things going on in the environment around us (seasonal allergies, the food we eat, etc.) chemistry changes - some people even note they never had anxiety until after a stomach bug, a virus, or food poisoning.  Our guts are our second brains!  If something gets thrown off, so do our neurotransmitters...which impact mood, sleep, hormones, and emotions.  Most of the time we have no idea what is causing it, and we can drive ourselves crazy trying to figure it out, but many times we won't.  So then what?  What do we do with this overwhelming, "out of nowhere" anxiety?

After years of being in a dance with anxiety, and then living with the constant fear of actually becoming handicapped or losing my life from my illness, I wore my worry out.  I now realize that I was full-throttle all the time from the stress/burden the actual infection was placing on my body (and the sensitivities/reactions it caused to so many things), as well as the swirling thoughts about my symptoms and worry that I might never get better...or even get worse.  I did my best to just muscle or white-knuckle my way through stress and anxiety for so long.  A few loved ones kept insisting I try anxiety medication to give myself a break, and in the very beginning I did, but it ended up not working for me and creating undesirable side-effects as drugs commonly do.  Deep inside I knew there was a better way, but I have to admit that I toughed it out for too long.  Why is it so important to get a handle on stress and anxiety?  Because its impact on the body and mind are very real.  Being in fight-or-flight shuts down the body's ability to heal (or parasympathetic/"rest and digest mode"- which is crucial for immune function and healing from chronic illness...or even a common cold), and it speeds up breakdown of the body and the aging process...all you have to do is look at "before" and "after" pictures of past presidents to see proof of that!

I had spent my entire life as a pretty thin person, probably mostly due to genetics and digestive issues (I actually couldn't stop losing weight at my sickest point, which was terrifying), but about a year-and-a-half ago I started to gain weight, and it was very strange...almost overnight I became a pear-shape...and it didn't just look like plain old weight gain...it was gushy, like bumpy fluid.  I was baffled.  I was still eating my stellar healthy diet (without exception), and I was doing gentle exercise that I could tolerate, like dance and yoga.  Then I noticed if I exercised more it got worse.  Huh?  This was all new to me and drove me absolutely crazy as I had to buy bigger clothes or live in yoga pants.  I couldn't figure out what was happening.

Then I decided to experiment with "Ashwagandha."  When I was actively treating my Lyme with an herbalist Ashwagandha was part of my adrenal tincture, and more recently my functional medicine doctor mentioned it.  It is an adaptogen, so it will bring you up if you are down and calm you if you are elevated in some way...balance, that's what I instinctively knew I needed.  First I started with 1/8 of a teaspoon (powder) in my morning tea, and then gradually worked my way up to 1/4 tsp. (I respond well to very small doses of everything...a dab will do me - and many things don't agree with me at all, so I am very careful.)

My two trusty sources of Ashwagandha powder - Mountain Rose Herbs & Banyan Botanicals
The first thing I noticed is that I didn't get stressed out about things I would normally get freaked out by.  There was more of a "can handle" feeling.  As time passed I realized that nagging anxiety wasn't there, replaced by a sense of calm.  After a few weeks (3-4) I noticed drainage of that weight.  It isn't a fast thing, but slowly it is leaving without changing anything else about my life or habits.  Ashwagandha is known for supporting the adrenals/kidneys which have a major influence on fluid balance in the body, and adrenal function is tied to cortisol - the stress hormone!  When you have unrelenting stress in your life (the kind a chronic illness, divorce, intense job, loss of a loved one, a sick or special needs child, etc...even just sleep depravation/insomnia cause), then your adrenals take a major hit.

Rather than me getting into all of the science behind it, I will point you to others who I rely on and trust...and who can explain it much better than I can:
- Dr. Josh Axe: "Get Your Cortisol Levels Under Control & Turn Down the Stress"
- Dr. Sara Gottfried: "7 Ways to Rock Cortisol (& Manage Your Stress)"
- Dr. Aviva Romm: "Adaptogens: Herbs for Beating Stress, Fighting Fatigue & Banishing Cravings"
- Banyan Botanicals: "Ashwagandha: Five Awesome Studies You Should Know About"

I am just bringing you the information, so then you can decide what to do with it.  I am not saying you should take any of these things.  I can't speak to the science behind it, the safety, how it will work for you...I am just sharing my story and how it helped me.  That's all I can do.  We are all different...one person's cure can be another person's poison.  However, I would argue that trying this route is much safer than taking a pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medication with its long ingredient list.  Investigate, explore, research, and try things out for yourself...in a slow and metered manner, and with medical/experienced practitioner supervision as you need to.  And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure you are using products of the highest quality.  For Ashwagandha I only use Banyan Botanicals and Mountain Rose Herbs (both are organic).  Again, I use the powder form, because it only has one ingredient and it is easy to start with literally a pinch if you want, but you can find liquid tinctures as well.

Anxiety and depression have reached epidemic proportions...especially here in the United States.  The reason why is multifactorial.  Just know that you are not alone, it is nothing to be ashamed of, and there is no reason to just struggle thought life with it in the driver's seat.  The holidays can be a particularly stressful time, but if you find yourself regularly under the constant weight of stress, or with anxiety that hits you and you can't seem to budge it, an adaptogen may give you the relief you need and deserve to settle and refocus.  It can give you the breathing-space to proceed with taking steps that improve your overall mental/emotional health and overall wellbeing, like healing your digestion (a major source of depression & anxiety is a "busted gut")...or it can take the edge off enough so you can really get in there and meditate more deeply and regularly without the constant "mind gremlins" chasing after you.  We all deserve to feel our absolute best, and mainstream medicine isn't always the most helpful in working with us to get there.  That's why it is important for us to be lifelong learners and problem-solvers for ourselves, all while getting proper advice and guidance along the way from practitioners who think holistically.  I hope this post will point you in a direction that will help you improve the quality of your life so you can be fully present for the holidays and make every day one you can enjoy and celebrate!



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Grab Those Goodies

This post is going to be a sweet one!  Though I tend to be very "strict" with my diet (it is the foundation that helps me manage my health challenges), and I always highly recommend healthy eating to everyone, I also feel that indulging in treats is good for the soul.  This time of year is awaited with great excitement by many due to the fact that it is known for there being tons of treats around, but the key is choosing wisely and not over-indulging.

Thankfully we live in a time when people are waking-up to the health risks tied to the toxic ingredients found in many of the candies and sweets we find in the store.  This has resulted in more and more conscientious companies popping up...including "Unreal Candy."  The story behind this company will blow you away and inspire your family...be sure to watch the video below with your children!  One of the struggles as a health-minded parent is coming up with good alternatives to ensure your children don't feel like they are missing out.  I don't want my son to feel sad when he is surrounded by friends eating food that "looks awesome" but that I just can't allow him to eat...because to me it feels like I am poisoning the most precious thing in my life.

We have been enjoying all of the "Unreal" products from the very beginning, but this year we found an extra special surprise...their candy coated chocolate pieces in HOLIDAY FLAVORS!!!  Since toffee has always been my #1 favorite candy I HAD to get that one (milk chocolate & toffee in a green shell).  I am still holding off on eating certain things (like dairy, etc.) for now, but my son absolutely LOVES them, so I KNOW they are AMAZING!  They also have "White Chocolate & Candy Cane" (white shell) and "Milk Chocolate & Ginger" (red shell) flavors.  How festive and fun is that?!  No compromises...just pure joy!


"Unreal" is a company you will be moved to support not just because they have a great story, because they are local (for those of us in the Boston-area, anyway), or because their products are so much better for you...but because their goodies are truly AWESOME!  "Unreal" is the official candy at our house and what we always proudly give out for Halloween!



I hope this post will help you make another healthy switcheroo in your life, one that will become part of your celebrations and traditions.  Please also keep in mind that due to the higher stress levels this time of year, and the fact that certain flavors are tied to memories, we can become emotional eaters...disconnected from what we are doing.  We need to make an effort to be mindful and stay present so we can fully enjoy every moment and each bite!




Feet Treat

As I mentioned in my "healthy travels" post we just returned from Disney...where we logged an average of ten miles a day!  What?!  I didn't even know I was capable of such things!  My feet were SO TIRED by the end of each day.  I wasn't prepared to "treat" my feet while there, but now that I am home I am in full "rejuvenate mode."

I don't think I have to give you the whole "feet are so important to our overall wellbeing" speech.  We all know that we need our feet to carry us through this life and that if they are miserable, we are miserable!  There is lots of information out there indicating that we detoxify a lot through our feet, too, so keeping them healthy and open helps to keep our whole being in-flow.  (Keeping your feet warm is important, but if you can sleep without socks on, do it for detox sake!)

One of my very favorite ways to "treat" my feet is a foot soak at the end of the day (or anytime).  I throw in a lot of the same ingredients I use for my full-body detox baths - epsom salt, bentonite clay, baking soda, essential oil(s), etc.  Some people even throw in a little Apple Cider Vinegar!  Then I take my little pumice scrubber and gently exfoliate my feet so they can BREATHE.

Next is my favorite part!  I pat my feet dry and apply this delicious "Peppermint Foot Rub" by one of my favorite little companies Moon Valley Organics.  It is a perfect opportunity for a little massage and self-care (reflexology is a powerful tool).  This foot salve makes my feet feel so soft and refreshed, and it brings a soothing and healing sense of circulation.  My feet come back to life!  The arnica is perfect for helping with swelling as well.  The scent could not be more perfect this time of year, too...such a treat!

All you need is a tub/bucket, a pumice, and this Peppermint Foot Rub to take yourself to the spa!  (Candy cane-striped Toesox add to the experience as well!)
Moon Valley Organics is so very thoughtful about each ingredient they put into their products, and you can tell they are of the highest quality.  The first product I tried was their "Moon Melt Lotion Bar"...I had such a hard time choosing a scent in the store, because they are all heavenly.  I now have three out of four scents, and I can't wait to snag the last one to complete my collection!  For now my fave is "Coconut Lemon," because it literally smells like coconut lemon pie - it's dessert for your hands!  All of the lotion bars keep my hands soft and smooth, which is no easy job this time of year.  I also love their "Herbal Lip Balm"...my favorite being the "Mint Vanilla," which is also very "holiday."  We have also been loving their "Rejuvenating Rub" for sore and achy muscles, as well as their "Herbal Heal" for cuts/scrapes/boo-boos!  I introduced my father to the "PsoriaSoothe," and he says, "It really helps!"...and just had me order him two more tubes!  (My only suggestion would be to order the "key tool" or find something at home to help you get the salves out of the tubes.)

My Moon Valley Organics stash...hard to choose a favorite, because they are all so AWESOME!
The proof is in the products.  You will LOVE them...and I can endorse them as a person with very sensitive skin and an overall sensitive constitution.  Once I saw the Moon Valley Organics video story I truly was ALL IN (check it out below).  Their love of the land, plants, animals, and their products has me hooked as a customer and fangirl for life.  I am so impressed by their thoughtful and sustainable practices and how they have expanded to collaborate with other healers to enhance the effectiveness of their products.  I simply LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!

So, whether you have literally walked ten miles today or just got home from a holiday party where you danced the night away in killer shoes, take some time to give your feet some love with this Peppermint Foot Rub...and grab some other stocking stuffers while you are at it.  There are plenty of goodies to choose from!  I can already hear the grateful sighs of relief!





Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Happy (and Healthy) Trails To You

So, I just returned from a wonderful trip with my family to Disney World (again)!  Yes, we also went in April...and decided to take our son again last week to celebrate his eighth birthday (on the 8th).  You see, it is sort of like we are making up for lost time.  Until this year we had never been on a family vacation.  We pretty much hardly left the house, due to my health challenges.  To say I was nervous before our trip in April would be an understatement.  We had taken a short trip a few months beforehand (over February break - my first time on a plane in five years) for a quick visit to Atlanta (to check out neighborhoods and houses for a possible move), and it threw me into feeling absolutely terrible.  I knew that I really had to build my toolkit to ensure a successful and symptom-free (or at least symptom-minimal) trip to Disney.  I didn't want to be stuck in my hotel room, sick, while my family was out having fun without me.  And this information is helpful for ANYONE, because who wants to get sick (or not feel your best) on a trip?!

This post is overflowing with info, products, and tips...which sort of makes up for the last 4-5 days I missed!

When I got so sick from my trip in February I immediately did what I always do...research!  I learned that when you fly your body prioritizes certain bodily functions to keep you alive, mainly pulmonary and cardiovascular (to prevent blood clots (DVT), etc.)  Being on an airplane is a stress on your body (you ever notice your squashed water bottle?), which puts you into a type of flight-or-flight.  This means that blood flow and circulation is diverted to the more crucial organs...leaving your digestion at a halt.  This leads me to my first tip:

1. In addition to not eating on the flight, try not to eat about two hours before and after flying, so nothing gets "stuck"/undigested, causing problems later.  Also, for those with very poor digestion, try blending all of the food you eat the day before flying (and day-of & day after).  This breaks down your food, making it more easily digestible, which gives your digestive organs a much needed break in preparation for the impact of flying. If you are on a very long flight, or you absolutely must eat to keep your blood sugar balanced, then opt for taking some protein powder with you to mix into your water bottle (I love these: Epic Protein & Sunwarrior - Warrior Blend - both come in individual packets, which are super handy for travel).

2. Speaking of water...hydration is KEY!  I can't stress that enough.  It is always important, but even more so when traveling.  A dehydrated system is an irritated, inflamed, overreactive, constipated, and anxious one!  Since you can't take liquids with you past airport security, once I am through that area I make a beeline for a place to buy water from.  I buy 1-2 of the largest bottles I can get (adjust depending on how long your flight is), and if I can I buy Smartwater, because it has added electrolytes.  I also carry my own Himalayan Salt with me to add if I need to.  (*NOTE: I typically avoid bottled water at all costs, but there are times it is necessary.)  Airlines only make the situation worse by handing out snacks that are drying by nature - chips, popcorn, pretzels.  Try to opt for things that have a little moisture in them if you are going to snack.

3. As I mentioned above, traveling is STRESSFUL (whether you feel it or not).  Flying not only dehydrates you, but it also irritates your nervous system.  In Ayurveda one of the "types" (Doshas) or qualities they talk about is "Vata."  Vata means air/wind and is characterized by dryness and anxiety (among many other things).  I fall mostly into this category.  And since "like increases like," airplane travel can intensify my preexisting imbalances.  Once I have my water I also add a few drops of Bach Rescue Remedy to keep myself relaxed (I use the Kids formula, because it is alcohol-free which is gentler on the system...and I can share it with my son if I need to).

My Carry-On Stash/"Fountain of Health"
Now on to my "Get On The Plane Ritual," which isn't for those who care what the people around them think!  ;-)

4. The first thing I do is get my Seventh Generation Wipes out (I pull out a bunch from my canister at home and put them in a Ziploc bag for my carry-on).  Then I thoroughly wipe down the arm rests, windows/shades, TV screens (if there are any), tray tables and clasp/lock, lights and vents, seatbelts/buckles, anything within reach that I am going to touch (or my family is going to touch).

5. Next I add more Thieves Oil to our collars to breathe in (you can keep refreshing it during the flight as needed), and I sanitize our hands with the Thieves Hand Purifier - which I also do after each bathroom use (in addition to washing hands, of course), etc.  (For later on your trip...continue to apply Thieves Oil to your collar daily to ward off germs wherever you roam.)

6. Then I take my little "Cloud of Protection" spray and spray it all around us/in our row.  You can also slip it in your pocket and spray it in the bathroom or any small/enclosed spaces where people have been spewing their germs.

7. To go along with the Rescue Remedy for calming and grounding (which I mentioned above) I take an oil (it can really be any oil...like even coconut or olive) and put it on my "Wind Gates" - bottoms of my feet, base of the back of my neck (that little indentation), and down the center line of my breastbone.  This helps to keep the dryness and wind from building out of control, which keeps stress and anxiety at bay.  Part of the problem with air travel is that you lose your sense of groundedness, so you have to do things that will be soothing...like deep breathing and meditating, too.  The oils I love to use for this are Banyan's "Vata Massage Oil" & Purple Prairie Botanicals "Peaceful Prairie Body Massage Oil."

8. Once I get where I am going I make sure I clear out my passages, because though you may be exposed to germs, the most important thing is moving them through so they don't sit in your nose/throat/etc. and take root.  I use my saline spray to irrigate and rehydrate my nose, and I add more eye drops (I use them before the flight, too) to rehydrate my eyes.  As a preventative, or at the slightest sign of a catch/sore spot in my throat, I use my "Sinus Blaster" spray, which is a special blend I get at a local natural foods store.  The closest formula I could find online is this one.  I also really like Barlean's "Olive Leaf Complex Spray," which is not only soothing but is also a great germ-killer! Gargling with hot water/drinking tea helps if that is all you can do as well.  It is all about avoiding stagnation!

9. I usually travel with a lot of homeopathic remedies, because they are gentle and seem to work for me.  I really like this "Yarrow Environmental Solution" by FES Flowers, because it helps with Electromagnetic Fields, radiation, and other exposures that are common during air travel.

10. Speaking of toxins and exposures I never leave home without my Activated Charcoal!  I take it each night while I am traveling to help with airborne toxin exposure, as well as anything I might eat that doesn't agree with me (must be taken 2-3 hours away from other medication/supplements).  I typically bring/prepare all of my own food wherever I go, but sometimes I have to eat something from a restaurant, and though I can usually get some veggies and chicken that have been cooked simply enough, they usually are not organic or have been prepared in a way (or are from a source) that is not as pure as I am used to.  Charcoal also helps with the airplane/airport radiation.  I also always have my DGL on hand in case of stomach upset...as well as continuing to take my extremely crucial probiotics!

Then the next phase is the process I go through once I reach my final destination.  The wipes and sprays come back out as I clean-up my hotel room!  You get the picture.  I also want to be sure to mention how important knowing acupressure points and yoga poses is.  They have both pulled me out of symptoms pretty quickly so I could move on and enjoy myself.  For example - these ear points help with ear pain/pressure from flying...for you or your child (they have also saved us from needing to go to the doctor for ear infections in the past).  I could go on and on, and I have a ton more tips, but this is a great foundation to start with.  I don't want to overwhelm people with too much information, but for immunocompromised people this is no joke.  If you could only do 1-2 of these things I would prioritize the water and Thieves Oil!  That alone will help so much (also not touching your eyes, picking your nose, etc. goes a long way)!  I am happy to report that on both trips we all stayed healthy so we could all be together, cover lots of ground, and enjoy ourselves to the max.  It is so empowering to have a plan and a toolkit to keep yourself well...and to know what to do when a health situation arises.  You can be your own little "Health MacGyver," and that ensures many more adventures ahead to partake in!




Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Be More Jovial

I think I already had a fondness for the word "jovial," because it is a word my dad has used for as long as I can remember to describe the most kind and fun people.  Then when I went through my whole revamp of my life for my own health and the health of my family I found "jovial" lighting up my life once again.

The very first "Jovial" product we found and tried was their organic and gluten-free pasta.  It filled such a void for us and was absolutely delicious!  Then one day, a couple of years ago, while I was doing my usual scans up and down the aisles of the grocery store I found "Jovial cookies."  I literally almost started crying!  I had heard over and over from my son (then in Kindergarten) how much he wanted little packaged treats in his lunchbox like all of the other kids.  I just hadn't found any that met our organic/gluten-free/high-quality standards.  THIS was it!  I immediately bought a box of chocolate and vanilla and excitedly brought them home.  My son was THRILLED and loves them to this day!

A glimpse of part of our Jovial stash (we have run out of a few staples, including olive oil, but it's on its way!
Then I quickly jumped on my computer to learn more, and I fell even deeper in love with "Jovial" as a company.  When I say "love" I mean it!  I wrote them quite a "love letter" (including a pic of my son in our shopping cart with his Jovial cookies!), and of course I received the kindest and warmest response.  The people behind the company, and how much they care about the quality of their products, is what makes them over-the-top beautiful and special to me (we also share Italian roots, which means a lot to me).  To hear their story, see the GF-cooking retreats they offer at their Tuscan villa, and see their love of the land and food, restores my hope that we can heal the food industry...and I can feel the influence of the old-world and their ancestors behind it.  And I am happy to report that they just opened a new property in Connecticut so they can get even more goodness out into the world!  Watch the heartwarming video of their "Grand Opening" on a historic CT farmstead below (get out the tissues)...


We have been blown-away by all "Jovial" products we have tried, and while the cookies are probably my son's absolute favorite, mine is their organic olive oil from their land in Italy!  They are running a deal right now where you can get $10-off a case of 3!  I also have to give honorable mention to their tomatoes and crackers (which we can't keep enough of in the house, because my son scarfs them down - his fave is the "Rosemary.")  I also recently bought their baking flours (which are 20%-off right now), but I haven't had a chance to use them just yet, so I will keep you posted (I will be using them for holiday baking, and I am sure they are awesome)!

I am beyond grateful for "Jovial Foods" for so many reasons, and I hope you will join me in supporting them...not just because they are good people, but because their food is darn good!  We vote with our dollars, and "Jovial" is a very bright ray of hope for the future of food.  Oh...and who wants to go to Italy with me for a cooking adventure at The Jovial Villa?!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Watch and Learn

At this point in my healing journey I have literally lost count of how many documentaries I have watched.  I gain something from each one, and I usually am the most excited about whichever one I most recently watched.  Many of these films follow individuals who drastically change their diet and lifestyle and have dramatic results...dropping weight, prescription meds, and health conditions by the end of filming.  I have been inspired by each story.  However, there are two films that really stand out in my mind, so I am sharing them as my "favorite things" and endorsing them as "must see T.V."

The first one I learned about a couple of years ago from a "mindbodygreen" article by a young woman named Shannon Harvey.  She had suffered from a mysterious collection of Autoimmune Illnesses and was told by doctors that she was headed toward organ failure and being wheelchair bound.  Doctors couldn't do much for her, but her intuition told her that stress was a major factor, and her background in journalism drove her to find answers and solutions.  That is how "The Connection: Mind your body" was created.  It is a compelling movie about the mind-body connection and really how it is the key to healing.  Shannon interviews some of the top people in the field of mind-body/stress-reduction medicine and follows people who have experienced turning their own health around with these modalities (including Jason Wachob, the founder of "mindbodygreen").  This film goes hand in hand with my true belief about healing...we are more powerful than we know, and we can use our mind to heal.


The second documentary is a series called "Betrayal," which is a seven-part series about the epidemic of Autoimmune Disease and how mainstream medicine is getting it all wrong...which is harming all of us.  It is very in-depth and scientific, which may turn some off, but it is absolutely brilliant.  The doctor who created this project, Dr. Tom O'Bryan, can come across a little "hokey" or like he is pushing an infomercial, but that is not the case at all.  He is a very caring doctor on a mission.  Dr. O'Bryan's father died of a heart attack, but the coroner could not tell him exactly why his father had such an episode.  There were no typical signs of heart attack.  Dr. O'Bryan was determined to figure it out.  As it turned out, what looked like a heart attack was actually an Autoimmune Disease that had flown under the radar and was wreaking havoc in his body.  This series makes connections and exposes information that is truly life-changing and life-saving.  If you or anyone you care about is "mysteriously ill" or is struggling with a chronic and/or Autoimmune Illness, then you have to watch this...and take notes! It is chock-full of helpful information you can put to use right away.


If you don't want to pay for (or gift) these films, then sign-up to be part of their e-mail lists.  They periodically show them for free, and you can jump on watching them then.  Definitely keep them on your radar!  They will change your life...promise!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Hydration

'Tis the season...no, not what you are thinking...  I mean the season for dry skin, hair, eyes, sinuses, throat, and a partridge in a pair tree!  Most of us (in the Northeast, anyway) have had our heat on for a good while now, and we are starting to see and feel the impact.  If you have plants in your house you might notice them getting dried out and needing watering more frequently.  Well, guess what?  You are no different.  We often think of Summer as the time of overheating and needing to stay on top of hydration, but it is just as important in the Fall and Winter.  Whether we spend most of our time inside or outside, our bodies are connected to nature, and the qualities of Fall/Winter are reflected within us during those seasons.  Think of the wind blowing, the brittle tree branches snapping (instead of bending like they do in the dampness of Spring), and things hardening and freezing solid.

Hydration is the key that turns numerous functions in our body.  So many people are dehydrated and don't even know it.  When people tell me they are dizzy, lightheaded, feeling tired, the first thing I ask is, "Are you drinking enough water?"  Then I am usually shocked by how much people think is "enough."  Technically you are supposed to take your weight, divide it by 2, and then drink that many ounces of water per day.  That doesn't mean guzzling it here and there, when you get a chance...it means sipping/drinking throughout the day, in a balanced way, so your body can actually utilize it.  Even digestive problems can be a result of not drinking enough water!  When I started measuring out my water each day, and making sure I was drinking it all, I was amazed by how little I had actually been drinking all along (though I thought I was so "good" about it) and how much better I truly felt from it!  Some symptoms I thought were related to my chronic illness just went away!  So I am throwing a challenge in this post...figure out how much water you should be drinking (with the little equation above), measure it out each morning, and drink it throughout the day.  You will be surprised how great you can feel from that one, simple act!  (Please share your results with me...I would LOVE to hear them!)  Another good thing to keep in mind is that it's not just about water, it's also about electrolytes.  If you drink too much water you can actually dilute your electrolytes too much...so I suggest adding a pinch of either a high quality Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt to your water (I like this one).

Now, due to the fact that it is Winter and our heating systems are running regularly, we are facing quite a hydration challenge, so we need to work on both the inside and OUTSIDE of our bodies!  That's where my "favorite thing" for today's post comes in (finally, right?!)  Lots of people use humidifiers during the Winter months, but many aren't aware of the hazards that go along with them.  The full-house humidifiers that are attached to your heating system can be a perfect breeding ground for mold, and that mold ends up in your ductwork, blowing around for you to breathe in (and don't even get me started on how unhealthy and downright dangerous mold is).  Then there are the plug-in units of various shapes, sizes, and brands.  If they are hard to clean, then they are also perfect hosts for mold growth.  You also have to think about the materials your unit is made out of.  If it is constructed with toxic parts and adhesives, as it breaks down it will be aerated for you to breathe.

For these reasons, and more, I was so grateful to find the Humio Humidifier!  The founder/creator was someone who had health issues himself and could not find a "healthy" humidifier to meet his needs.  I find that the very best products come from situations like these, and I am so impressed by people who come up against such roadblocks and just create their own solutions...and then share them so we all benefit!
Even Santa appreciates some extra hydration this time of year!
What I love about this humidifier is the quality of the materials (there was never a plastic or toxic smell...and I have the most sensitive sniffer), it is easy to clean (regularly), it has a cool and relaxing (multicolored) nightlight feature (which you can turn-off whenever you want), and it has a compartment for essential oils, which we use when we are sick or coming down with something (we use mostly Eucalyptus, Thieves, or Lavender oil, but be sure to always be careful with essential oils, because they don't agree with everyone, and they are an added thing for the body to process...and only use the highest quality oils!)

We have a Humio in each bedroom and one on our main floor.  Since they are small, they are perfect for bedrooms, and then during the day I suggest putting it in the room you spend the most time.  If you move around, it can move with you.  It is very light and easy to transport!  We have had ours for three seasons now, and they are still going strong!

At the time of writing this blog post the cheapest I can find them online is $89.93 on Amazon.com (with free Prime shipping).  Originally I was lucky to find them on a website that also offered a coupon code, so keep an eye out for those opportunities.  We also got one of ours at a local health store when they were running a promotion.

Our bodies need moisture to thrive and stay healthy!  Without fluids and adequate mucous in our membranes, germs have a chance to go crazy.  Once I hear my son start snoring at night and my hair starts to do its static-flyaway-thing, I know I need to up our humidifier game.  Waking up with a dry mouth?  Can't keep enough eye drops on hand?  Skin looking like the tissue paper you are stuffing in your holiday gift bags?  Listen to all of these signs and water yourself accordingly!

Check out this video to learn more about the Humio Humidifier...




Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Gift That Keeps Giving

I get so many junk e-mails that I get overwhelmed by them...so I usually either just skip over them completely, leaving them unopened, or I start deleting like crazy, never even giving them a second of my time.  However, a few years ago I received a pretty awesome offer in my inbox.  This one caught my eye, and I am so glad I didn't just ignore it.

What's the perfect thing for someone who is addicted to reading and researching about wellness?!  "Experience Life" & "Mindful" magazines!!!  And the particular deal I had received was to get both of these awesome publications for a year, for a very reasonable price.  I am so glad I took a chance and accepted the offer.  Now I am completely HOOKED!  I get so excited to see these mags arrive in my mailbox!  They have excellent websites and send out super helpful e-mails, too.

A basket full of joy!  "Experience Life" & "Mindful" Magazines
Personally, I couldn't decide which one to get if I had to only choose ONE.  As their titles sort of indicate, "Experience Life" is more about the body, health, and fitness, while "Mindful" focuses on the mind and emotional wellbeing, though they both fully embrace and speak to the mind/body connection.  They compliment each other very nicely!  Both publications keep you up-to-date with the latest breakthroughs, provide the right depth of information to keep you interested, and also help you make informed decisions for yourself to achieve top wellness.

A bonus for me this month was seeing one of my very favorite doctors (Aviva Romm, MD - a revolutionary and compassionate voice in the world of medicine for women and children) on the cover of "Experience Life!"  Each month they seem to outdo themselves!

One of the fun monthly features in "Mindful" Magazine
Think about purchasing one, or both, of these superstars for someone you love.  Maybe someone who you are concerned about...someone who doesn't have the best habits...someone who needs a little nudge in the right direction...someone who is starting their healing journey...or even someone who is already passionate about this stuff.  You could also take this opportunity to treat yourself and make a healthier swap.  Let go of that "People," or fashion magazine, and trade it in for something that will feed your mind, body, and soul, and make a real, positive difference in your life.  It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

What Ya Got Under There?

I often have people ask me what the number one, most important "health thing" is they should invest-in or change in their lives.  I really can't narrow it down to one thing.  Healthy eating, good sleep, stress-management, reduction in toxin exposure (personal care and cleaning products)...and the list goes on.  I know it is not realistic to expect people to throw everything out and start over, but you can start by doing a few switcheroos and building from there.

You can't have 100% organic everything in your life, but in addition to food I feel that underwear and pajamas should be high on your priority list.  Underwear, for obvious reasons (those are delicate areas) - and this includes socks (the health of our feet is more important than we realize - and we release a lot of toxins out through them), and pajamas because we spend a lot of time in bed/sleeping (hopefully), and while we sleep is when our body essentially takes out the trash and repairs itself.  While we sleep everything can relax and open up to breathe, and if our body is covered in something synthetic or toxic, that's what we are taking in...and then our body is tied up trying to process that stuff instead of focusing on its most important job.

Again, for these "favorite things" posts I am not going to dive into the science and data too much, but by now we all know sleep is very important.  Our bodies and brains do amazing things while we sleep, and if you do want to know more, you can start here.

They always say that no one does better research and investigating than a mother!  Well, it's true!  Our go-to store for my sons underwear and pajamas (and most of his clothes) has always been Hanna Andersson.  We love their quality, softness, durability, and the fact that ALL of their "Unders" and PJs are 100% Organic Cotton.  In addition to those most important qualifications they come in THE CUTEST colors and prints...including our all-time favorite, Snoopy and The Peanuts Gang!  I basically refuse to pay full-price for anything, so I get most of my "Hannas" during sales or promotions.  We are also lucky to live fairly close to a Hanna Andersson Outlet Store.  They also carry women's clothing, which I love.  I have some of their "adult" stuff, but I am also able to wear their largest kids size, so that saves me a lot of money, too (plus they are way more fun and I can match with my son...until the day he thinks that is an awful and embarrassing idea!)  One other thing to note is that they have just about the best Customer Service I have ever dealt with!  *ATTENTION: Kids jams are $29 right now online (normally $44-46) - including the licensed stuff (Disney, Peanuts, Star Wars, etc.), which is rare.
Our latest Hanna Andersson treasures!
An awesome source of adult underwear and socks is PACT Apparel!  They are super comfy, last a long time, and come in lots of colors and patterns...as well as the basic solids.  I also love their leggings, tanks/camis, and t-shirts.  They are a company with an amazing mission, too...which makes me want to support them even more!  You can read all about it here.

Another website I want to mention is Faerie's Dance.  It is one of the very first places I shopped for these sorts of items back before they were easier to find.  It's where I learned about BGREEN products, which I also really like.

A couple of times I have indulged in Coyuchi pajamas, which are wonderful...they are just over-priced.  I have been lucky enough to catch some pretty awesome sales...when the pajamas are already on-sale, and then they send an additional coupon, is when I jump on them.

I have also noticed that Burt's Bees now makes organic clothing.  I have bought some of their baby pajamas as gifts, and they seem very nice.  I also noticed some of their pretty holiday sleepwear when I was at a local Whole Foods the other day.  It looks like they have some matching kids and adults pjs for the season...check it out tonight (12/3), and you can get 25%-off: Burt's Bees Family Pajamas.

One last tip, because I know these things can be quite pricey...head on over to an "overstock/discount" site like Sierra Trading Post, 6PM, Backcountry, etc., and type "organic" in their search bar.  I find lots of good stuff, at very reasonable prices, this way!

If you are going to be buying gifts for loved ones (or yourself) anyway, buy fewer things, but make sure they are healthier and higher quality!  That's a good way to show you really care!

Some of our favorites from our organic PJ collection!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Support & Soothe Your Gut

There are just so many opportunities to indulge this time of year!  Unfortunately most of the options are laden with gluten, dairy, and lots and lots of sugar.  All of these things can be challenging to digest, even if you don't have a true sensitivity or allergy.  It takes a LOT of work for your digestive system to process stuff that is processed.  I would argue that is actually what is behind "flu season," which in my mind actually translates to "asking way too much of your body."  The stress, staying up later, rushing around, and eating less than optimal food all suppress the immune system...and having your defenses down rolls out the red carpet for anything you might be exposed to (or even for your own internal "bugs" to come out and "play").

Personally, I gave-up the food indulgences years ago (because it makes a huge difference in how I feel), but I fully engage in the rest of it...stress, doing way too much, staying up too late.  I am not immune to the impact this has, and my weak place has always been my digestion.  Though I have nailed down some solid ways to troubleshoot digestive flare-ups, I am still working on fully healing my gut.  This is priority #1, because let's not forget that more than 70% of our immune system resides in our gut.  Without a solid foundation there health conditions, such as auto-immune illnesses, can take root.

Thankfully I have learned many gentle and herbal solutions to soothe my system.  I am very grateful to my grandmother and cousin for introducing me to herbal tea at a very young age.  It is something that I started drinking daily, almost intuitively.  Mint was always my go-to, and now I have an understanding of how it helps digestion.

I can't imagine life without tea!  I am always on the lookout for new blends, and just like my shampoo/conditioner shelf, I have a cabinet dedicated to my teas, herbs, and powders.

A glimpse at my tea collection
There are all sorts of digestive teas out there, but I had never found one quite like "Tummy Coat" by Flying Bird Botanicals.  It is a very unique and well thought out gut brew.  In Ayurveda they believe that Fennel, Coriander, Cumin, and Cardamom are among some of the very most important herbs for digestion, and I happen to agree.  Then more classically I had learned about Chamomile, Lavender, Licorice, and the ever important Marshmallow Root.  "Tummy Coat" combines some herbs from both groups, and I like that it actually leaves out Licorice.  I went through a period of time where I drank Licorice tea everyday, which resulted in elevated blood pressure (it is important to use the deglycerolized version, or DGL, to avoid this problem), so I try not to drink anything that has it as an ingredient more than once or twice a week.

"Tummy Coat" has all Organic ingredients (which is a must in my book) that are grown in the USA.  I picked this tea up at a local natural foods store, and it was $2 cheaper than from the company's website.  You can also just buy the bulk herbs from a trustworthy source (like an herbalist or Mountain Rose Herbs) and put together your own!  Here is the full list of ingredients:
Organic Marshmallow Root, Organic Fennel, Organic Chamomile Flowers, Organic Raspberry Leaf, Organic Coriander, Organic Lemon Balm, Organic Lemongrass, Organic Lavender
(And I like to throw in 1/4 teaspoon of Slippery Elm powder to really add to the gut soothing power!)

"Tummy Coat" canister & tea bag, with my baggie of Slippery Elm in the background
Since energy is needed to digest food, create new cells, and fight germs, then you need to treat yourself like the very valuable machine you are.  It isn't always a bad thing to partake in all the season has to offer, but you need to be prepared with ways to care for yourself and recharge the "energy" you depleted.  That way you can feel your best and be fully present for ALL festivities!  Hopefully this tea will calm any sort of repercussions you might feel from overindulging, as well as keep your gut in tip-top shape no matter what.  I am sure I will be sharing some more tea faves before the New Year!

Happy Hair

One of my obsessions in life is definitely personal care products (which is why I started this blog in the first place)!  Back in the day, like when I was in college, I used to splurge on salon shampoo and conditioner...and my make-up bag was always well-stocked.  My choices (and what drives them) have changed dramatically, but I still feel like a kid in a candy shop as I S-L-O-W-L-Y make my way down personal-care-product aisles (just ask my husband and son)!  I love to take it all in...smelling, reading labels, making note of new companies on the market.

And...I really go crazy for shampoos and conditioners!  As you can see for yourself...

An entire shelf in our bathroom closet dedicated to my shampoo/conditioner collection!  (Maybe I have a problem?!)
Today I am featuring two products, because they both boast an amazing scent that leaves me more relaxed and happy, which is something we all need more of during this busy time of year.  The power of aromatherapy is a very real thing!  Both of these products highlight lavender, which is well-known for its ability to calm and soothe...and even alleviate headaches...among many other things.

I am particularly excited about flourish products, because I went to high school with one of its founders!  In the past I have used their "Lemongrass" shampoo/conditioner, and I love how clean, fresh, and uplifting it is.  However...the "Lavender Mint" is my favorite so far...such a perfect pairing!  There is something about it that is very "holiday" to me as well (probably the delicious mint), so I am enjoying it more than ever right now.  Each time I use it I feel a peaceful boost throughout the day as the scent revisits me.  I am particularly impressed with how short their ingredient lists are, which is proof of how thoughtful they are about what they put into their products.  Energetically you can feel the love in their blends, and I am really looking forward to trying their "Cocoa Spice Body Creme" this holiday season!  YUM!  And what's better than supporting a small, local (Vermont), conscientious company?!  (Obviously you can shop online, but I have also found flourish in my local natural foods stores).

Set yourself up for a peaceful day (or restful night) when you shower with these beauties!
Just a few weeks ago I was happy to discover Carina Organics, newly added to the shelves of a fave local health store.  Of course I started opening the bottles and smelling right away.  I really loved their "Citrus" scent, but when I got to the "Lavender" I knew that was the one!  I already have a handful of Citrus-scented hair products (there are way more citrus options out there), and I am particularly drawn to lavender and its healing properties.  It also just feels luxurious and reminds me of being at a spa!  Something else that is cool about this shampoo is that it also doubles as a body wash!  Perfect for when you are in a hurry!  All-in-ones can be great, but I usually find they don't do much for the hair...I can tell you that is NOT the case with this one.  Next on my list is definitely the "Sweet Pea" scent, but I haven't found it around here yet, so I am waiting to smell it in person.  Once again, our wonderful neighbors in Canada have given us a health-conscious product to be grateful for!

Both brands leave my hair soft, shiny, and smooth!  I really admire the story behind both companies, and I am so impressed with their short ingredient lists, chock full of well-thought-out, high-quality plants and herbs.  The #1 reason I suggest these two brands is their QUALITY!  I know you can find lavender-scented products elsewhere, but my nose can tell the difference...and it matters!  Treat yourself, or someone you love...you will be so glad you did!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Handy Germ Vigilante

I have been known to be a germophobe from time to time (ahem...I may have carried Lysol spray around with me at college...and I may or may not have panic attacks at the mere thought of using a public restroom).  Anywho...I have now learned about toxic products versus healthier alternatives, as well as over-sanitizing and the impact it has on our microbiomes.  I now resist the urge to pump my hands with goop every chance I get, and I am also more choosey about just what that goop is.  I had read more than enough info about common hand sanitizers and how toxic they are (like this article), to know I needed to find some good alternatives.  In the past I have used CleanWell spray and wipes, which I have been happy with (I like that they use Thyme, which is a well-known germ-killer), but sometimes I just feel like I need a heavier hitter.

Over the years I have really come to learn the value and effectiveness of essential oils...and I have quite the collection of them!  Last year we were planning our first family airplane trip since I had become ill, and I decided to make my own batch of "Thieves Oil" to help protect us.  I had read so much about its germ-fighting, immune-boosting powers...it has quite a history and reputation, which you can check out for yourself.

I was so excited to also find this awesome Thieves Oil Hand Purifier by LULU ORGANICS!  We dropped the straight essential oil blend on our collars to breathe in while traveling, and this hand sanitizer kept our hands clean...and we didn't get sick, even during "high-flu-time."  (Keep an eye out for a future post about my "healthy travel" tips!)

LULU ORGANICS Hand Purifier - Don't Leave Home Without It!!!
I also passed these tips on to a fellow "Choir Mommy" while our kids were practicing, because she and her family were heading to Disney this Fall for a much needed "Make-A-Wish" trip.  Due to the fact that her young daughter's immune system is in the process of rebuilding after chemo treatments she was concerned about her getting sick and the implications of that for her and their trip (potential hospitalization, etc.)  She even used Thieves in a mister in their hotel room both while they were out and while they slept!  She was thrilled to report to me last night that their entire family of six all stayed healthy during, and after, the trip!  I was over-the-moon happy to hear it, and it just reinforced my confidence in Thieves-based blends.  I have had many people I know tell me stories of "I woke-up sick this morning, did a steam tent with Thieves, and was well by the afternoon," but this story meant the most to me and really touched my heart...so that's why I share it.

Now I carry LULU ORGANICS Hand Purifier with me everywhere I go!  I get mine from my local natural foods store (cheaper than the online prices, too), but there are other versions such as the one made by Young Living you can look into.  If you have essential oils already (or you are planning to purchase them) you can make your own, which is even better!

I hope these tips will help you and your loved ones stay healthy...not only for the holidays but EVERYday!  XO