I have been reading and reading! A couple of good books that I enjoyed this week were The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline.
The Storyteller was a heavy read dealing with a serious topic. At over 400 pages long, it took me a while to get through but I enjoyed the story and liked the characters. After such a big book, I was ready for a lighter novel and The Way Life Should Be was the perfect read! The author wrote one of my favorite books of 2013, The Orphan Train (if you haven’t read it, please get your hands on it as soon as you can!)
These were both very good and I highly recommend them! Currently I am reading this novel.
Goodreads synopsis: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.
What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?
excerpt from Goodreads: The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline
Angela Russo is thirty-three years old and single, stuck in a job she doesn’t love. Though she inherited a flair for Italian cooking from her grandmother, she never has the time. Tacked to her office bulletin board is a picture torn from a magazine of a cottage on the coast of Maine, a reminder to Angela that there are other ways to live, even if she can’t seem to figure them out.
One day at work, Angela clicks on a tiny advertisement in the corner of her computer screen—“Do Soulmates Exist?”—and finds herself at a dating website, where she stumbles upon “MaineCatch,” a thirty-five-year-old sailing instructor with ice-blue eyes. Interpreting a confluence of bad events as a sign, Angela decides to risk it all and move to Maine.
But things don’t work out quite as she expected. Far from everything familiar, and with little to return to, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up, moving into a tiny cottage and finding work at a local coffee shop. To make friends and make ends meet, she leads a cooking class, slowly discovering the pleasures and secrets of her new small community, and—perhaps—a way to connect her heritage to a future she is only beginning to envision.
Behold the ripe red beauty of the pomegranate!
Fact- I never knew quite how to cut them up so I avoided these gems for most of my adult life. It wasn’t until very recently that I learned a super easy way to get those seeds- technically called arils- out that won’t leave your kitchen looking like a bloody crime scene.
First, let’s marvel at the nutritional value of this fruit:
It is loaded with antioxidants. * Fights cell damage. * Lowers cholesterol. * Contains vitamin C. * Protects against cancer. * Contains fiber. * Boosts immune system. * Aids in digestion. * Improves heart function. * Pomegranates helps with inflammation.
I buy one a week and savor each bite! In the past I have bought frozen arils in a bag at CostCo but I haven’t seen them there lately.
To clean a pomegranate without a huge mess, follow these steps:
You will need a medium size bowl, water, a knife and a strainer and obviously, a pomegranate.
Fill the bowl with water about 2/3 full.
Cut the pomegranate in half.
Take one half and turn upside down so skin is facing you.
Holding on to the pomegranate, immerse in water and scrape out the seeds with your fingers.
The seeds will float to the bottom, the rind (the white cartilage looking stuff) will float to the top.
Scoop out the rind with the strainer then strain the arils.
Now you are free to eat them! I like them just plain but I know some people enjoy them in salads. I made my Thanksgiving cranberry sauce with pomegranate and it was delicious.
There are loads of recipes on Pinterest here!
Even if you are trying to be really good about toxins, they can still manage to lurk in your house. I was clueless about some of these things until fairly recently.
Let’s take a look at the biggest toxins found in homes!
Non Stick Cookware- I was a big fan of Teflon until I began reading how bad this stuff is. Cooking in it releases gases that can make us sick. The toxic chemical “used in nonstick pans “pollutes nearly every American’s blood.” Even more alarming, the majority of experts on the panel called the chemical a likely human carcinogen!” Instead of using non stick cookware, try cast iron or stainless steel. (source)
Fragrance- I never really put together “fragrance” with “cancer” but there is a link. Fragrance may contain diethyl phthalate (DEP) which is absorbed through the skin and are known carcinogens. This ingredient is not listed on perfumes and other fragranced items like dryer sheets, room sprays etc. It is made up of a toxic cocktail of mercury, lead, phthalates and cancer-causing dioxin!
Vinyl (banned in over 14 countries) which you will find in things like a new shower curtain. Also known as PVC, this poison plastic can disrupt hormones, and threatens your health and the environment.
Pesticides- well, we all know these are no good for us, right? Extremely toxic, the residual poisons used to kill bugs on crops may linger after they are washed and they also get into the environment. Pesticides are often absorbed by produce and no matter how much we wash our apples and carrots, pesticides have already leaked into them. Most people tested had organochlorine pesticides in their bodies, at low levels but still- who wants trace amounts of pesticides in their system?
Lead in your lipstick- this is a bit controversial. I’ve seen several articles pointing out the teeniest, tiniest amount of lead found in lipstick will probably not harm you. However lead is a neurotoxin and there is no safe level. Think about days of lipstick application, multiplied over weeks and months in combination with other chemicals. Avoid!
Triclosan- is found in soaps and hand sanitizers plus mouthwash and deodorant. Triclosan has been linked to “liver and inhalation toxicity, and even low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Further, the American Medical Association recommends that triclosan not be used in the home, as it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.” (source)
I feel like every day I wake up and find something new to be aware of or to watch out for in the house or in food or the environment. To keep from getting too overwhelmed, I think of this great quote:
“When you know better, you do better!”
One step at a time!
I don’t always buy organic produce but I think I need to start. After reading about pesticides and how they can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables- and all the washing of the outside won’t help- then consumed by us, I started rethinking my grocery shopping. I don’t want GMOs (sidenote: *GMOs, are not often found in the produce section of grocery stores. Field corn, nearly all of which is produced with genetically modified seeds, is used to make tortillas, chips, corn syrup, animal feed and biofuels) in my body, I don’t want pesticides there either!
I’m trying to give my kids a really healthy foundation for the rest of their lives so avoiding pesticides in their growing bodies is important to me too.
Check this out:
“There are hundreds of pesticides approved for use in the United States and they all present different risks: some are linked with cancer, while others can cause birth defects or harm the nervous system. Some pesticides—including organophosphates commonly used on crops—are what are known as endocrine disruptors, which means that they affect the body’s highly sensitive endocrine (hormone) system. There’s good reason to be concerned about this: the body uses hormones to coordinate just about everything—cell growth, appetite and metabolism, among other things. (Organophosphates, despite the name, are synthetic pesticides linked with neurological problems, among other health conditions.)” SOURCE
Organic food has fewer pesticides and is 40% more nutritious. I usually shop the sale ad from my local farmers market and often the organic fruits/vegetables cost just a little more than the regular product.
The Environmental Working Group put together the Dirty Dozen- the foods with the highest pesticide residue, and also the Clean Fifteen, those with the least residue.
As always, take care to thoroughly wash your produce. I fill up a sink with water and a about 1/4 cup of vinegar and let everything soak for about ten minutes. Then I rinse and dry.
EWG’s 2012 “Dirty Dozen Plus”*:
3. Sweet Bell Peppers
• Green Beans
This year, the EWG added this new “Plus” category to the Dirty Dozen in order to highlight crops that “did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides.”
EWG’s 2012 “Clean 15”
2. Sweet Corn
6. Sweet Peas
12. Sweet Potatoes
I’ve tried a few brands lately that I am so excited to share with you! Let’s not waste any time and get right down to the important stuff!
First up is a natural cosmetics and skincare brand called Pure Anada. This brand doesn’t contain gluten, parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates…the list goes on. And they do not test on animals!
For those of you looking for a great foundation you have to try the Pure Anada Smooth & Conceal Liquid Foundation. I was super impressed with this foundation that gives amazing coverage and lasts all day. Apply it lightly, smooth with a brush or beauty blender sponge for best results.
Also worthwhile is the mascara. As you might know, its a challenge to find good foundation and good mascara that is non toxic. Pure Anada mascara exceeded my expectations. It lengthens, thickens, doesn’t smudge and has a good, thick consistency. It also washes off easily- another plus!
The lipstick from this brand was smooth and creamy- using natural minerals pigments. Offered in array of colors, these lipsticks contain butters and oils to keep lips hydrated. Its pretty clear from reading their website to going over the ingredients that Pure Anada is committed to only using healthy ingredients- check them out!
Also committed to natural, non toxic ingredients is Caseb Naturals. Fact: the body butters blew. my. mind. Never have I used such whipped goodness that melted into my skin like butter! Hand crafted, these body and bath products use exotic botanical extracts and organic ingredients. Aside from the hydrating and luxurious (I immediately thought of giving these out as gifts because everyone I know will LOVE the butters).
The Dragons Blood Body Balm is thicker- more for the drier parts of your body like elbows and heels and any other problem area. I use on my cuticles and also on my feet because I love nothing more than soft hands and feet all year!
I tried this fragrant natural Spicy Oatmeal soap that smells like the essential oils its made with- clove, cassia and rosemary. Heavenly! The soap contains anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, very good for skin and not drying at all. I cannot even express to you how magical and delicious these products are!
Let’s talk about natural deodorants- you should give them a whirl if you haven’t since mainstream deodorants are filled with preservatives and heavy metals. Its hard to find a really good non toxic deodorant that works but they are out there. I recently tried Schmidt’s and was duly impressed. Made from 100% natural ingredients, this product “effectively neutralizes underarm odor and absorbs wetness without the use of aluminum or other harmful chemicals” and it comes in scent combinations like Bergamot + Lime, Cedarwood + Juniper, Ylang-Ylang + Calendula, Lavender + Sage and Fragrance-Free.
Here’s how it works, you scoop out a little from the jar and smooth it over your armpits. It does crumble a little so I lean over the sink when I apply it. You can use the small spatula that comes in the jar but normally, I just use my fingers and the heat of my body melts and then it spreads easily. I have really put this to the test wearing it daily from early morning until night and it totally works!
Last but not least is Salty Cosmetics, another mineral brand. These hand blended cosmetics are free of parabens and bismuth oxychloride and can be made to order! I tried several of their eye shadows- I liked them a lot for their smooth, finely milled consistency and long lasting ability.
The lip colors come in pans and are a cross between a gloss and lipstick with rich color. The lip glosses are filled with humectants, carrier oils, essential oils and natural sunscreens. These are hydrating on the lips and I was surprised how pigmented they were!
I am home in my yoga pants with no intention of going out! I will however, happily shop online all day long!
I did a post on the wonderful brand GingerChi- they have a great body oil plus a detox oil for oil pulling that cannot be beat.
Their Black Friday deals are really good- check them out:
What foods can you consume to help your hair look better? That was my question today. I know its super important to feed your body lots of nutritious foods so your beauty shines through the inside out but there are some mega healthy foods out there we should all be eating on a regular basis.
I set out to find the BEST foods to eat for GORGEOUS and HEALTHY hair. Below is what I discovered. And because I need some recipes to get inspired when it comes to certain foods (broccoli), I have included some delicious sounding recipes to inspire you too!
Eat these for healthy gorgeous hair (and bonus- great skin too!)
Sweet Potatoes: These are packed with beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A when it is digested. This promotes hair growth and improves the circulation of oxygen to the hair follicles through the scalp! Suggested recipe here.
Green Tea: Drinking anti-oxidant polyphenol-rich green tea will improve your skin and boost your beauty. Green Tea recipes here!
Bananas: B-vitamin and zinc-rich! Low in calories, high in hair beautifying vitamins and minerals. Chocolate Covered Banana recipe!
Carrots: Vitamin A contained in carrots helps the scalp to produce sebum oil, an important fluid that provides natural hydration to dull, dry locks. Sweet Carrot Pie recipe (this looks soooooo good!)
Nuts- especially walnuts: Contains omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, protein, vitamin E and copper, which protects hair against the harmful rays of the sun by acting as a sort of shield. Click here for a walnut granola recipe!
Salmon: Contains high supplies of iron and vitamin B12, both of which are essential to skin and hair health. Meanwhile, rich sources of protein and vitamin D – which you can also absorb from the sun – improve hair strength and prevent breakage. Lemon Parmesan Baked Salmon recipe here.
Spinach: Is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, folic acid zinc and strengthening natural collagen, among other nutrients. Click here for Cheesy Spinach Bake-YUM.
Broccoli: Has essential vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, zinc and calcium. Oven roasted Broccoli recipe here.
Blueberries: Are a wonderful source of concentrated antioxidants, particularly vitamin C. Try this gluten free blueberry cobbler!
SOURCE (click that link for more hair loving foods)
I have been using clean, non toxic, green hair care since discovering all the harsh chemicals in many hair care products. It all began with me trying to figure out a way to decrease the frizz in my wavy hair which led me to finding out about silicone’s in hair products (which can be harmful to some hair types like mine). My search for gentle hair care was launched as was a whole Pandora’s box of discovering harmful chemicals in many personal care products.
I was under the (wrong) impression that natural hair care wouldn’t be as good as some of my beloved products that were just chock full of nasty things. I’m glad I was wrong. Because natural products are even better for your hair as they promote healthy hair and repaired locks with natural ingredients that do not simply coat hair but treat it.
Here are some of my favorites.
For hair styling, I love John Masters Organics. The Dry Hair Nourishment & Defrizzer works wonders in my frizzy hair. I use this when my hair is dry. It contains a blend of oils to tame and nourish hair like jojoba oil, lavender, rosemary and cedarwood- all of these essential oils contain special properties to aid hair in healing.
In the shower, I reach for the John Masters Organics Honey & Hibiscus Hair Reconstructor which is made from a blend of ingredients like honey, hibiscus, cupuacu butter and kept extracts to name a few. See, these ingredients will help the strands of hair, not coat them with a chemical cocktail. I leave this one on as long as possible for softer and smoother hair.
I had heard great things about the Sea Mist Sea Salt Spray with Lavender and I was anxious to use this spray which smells clean and fresh. It contains sea salt and lavender- which together add texture, volume and slows hair loss. It doesn’t make hair crispy as some sea salt sprays can do, it gives a little texture and body.
For shampooing and conditioning, I turn to Rahua Voluminous products which such delicious ingredients as Lemongrass and Green tea, quinoa, Lavender and eucalyptus. These products boost hair and give it volume and body. They also smell amazing and contain organic and 100% natural ingredients! I would love to try the Volumizing Spray to really pump up the volume on my locks!
I love Josh Rosebrook’s hair products because they smell so good and are very gentle. You could use them on a baby, they are so pure. I find I don’t need a whole lot because these products are super loaded with goodness and a little goes a long way. I reviewed these previously and I keep using them again and again. I have used the shampoo as a body wash and the conditioner to shave my legs. Keep them in the shower and use them for all of your needs! Don’t you love multitasking products?
Last but not least is Acure Organics. I’ve used all the shampoo and conditioners that they offer but the Pure Mint + Echinacea Stem Cell shampoo and conditioner work the best for my fine, frizzy, wavy, color treated locks. These are made with quinoa protein extract, argan oil, aabassu oil and other ingredients that give hair a boost. I always have a good hair day when I use these products! There’s also a great Leave In Spray Conditioner that keeps hair soft and knot-free but doesn’t weigh hair down.
I know there are more clean, green hair care products available and I’d love to hear your favorites!
The pouring rain is putting me in a pensive mood today. As I look outside and see the rain on the petals of my rose bush, practically weighing it down, I started thinking about what we can learn from nature. How often I have felt weighed down! I have gone through some pretty rough patches in my life, I’m sure you have too. But there is always a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, the sadness gives way to happiness and the cycle begins again.
I think about how, although I’m constantly pulling them, weeds keep popping up. Kind of metaphorical if you think about it. You can try to prevent them and pull them but nature can be ambitious!
I think about how after we moved into this house, something green and fan-like started growing under the cement, poking through it. This became a gigantic palm tree that sits in my backyard. Where did it come from? Nature is surprising.
After I cut my rose bushes back, they grow stronger than ever with giant, fragrant blossoms. My apricot tree is bare limbed through the winter but slowly, buds burst forth and the tree is ripe with juicy fruit when spring rolls around. Nature- life- has a cycle that is ever changing.
“If spring comes, can winter be far behind?”- Percy Shelley
Nature is resilient- the pouring rain that is supposed to come down for the next three days might weigh those leaves down but when the sun shines again, everything will be stronger, greener and healthier. Makes me think of going through a rough patch in life and how sometimes- usually- we come through it feeling more confident. Nature never fights or struggles, it slowly accomplishes what it needs to in its own time.
Nature is humble- that tiny little sprout, bud, blossom will become a piece of fruit, a flower, a leaf. There is nothing insignificant about our ecological system!
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nature changes and grows- There isn’t anything that stays the same in nature. Leaves change color and fall off branches, petals drop as flowers whither. The tides of the ocean roll in and out, the sun rises and sets, the world continues to spin. We are in a constant pattern of cycling where nothing stays the same for very long. From these cycles, nature flourishes.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
There is beauty in simplicity- Nature shows us this every day! The clouds in the sky, the stillness of a forest, a placid lake…there is nothing showy or gaudy about a field of flowers or a singular daisy. The pattern in a leaf. A handful of sand. Its all quite simple yet beautiful, abundant and lavish.
“Nature is my medicine.” – Sara Moss-Wolfe
Nature is simple in its beauty but also complex! Imagine the complicated marine life under the ocean, tiny insects on the leaf covered ground of the forest, birds in trees, animals hiding in the wilderness…I always try to remind myself that people are complex too, now matter what they (we) are showing on the outside. There may be a duck gliding on the water but underneath its little feet are quickly paddling. Nature shows us to look beneath the surface.
There are endless lessons to be learned from nature and if I had more time, I could sit here all day and think about it. Is there anything in particular you have learned about the beauty that’s around us?
- Online shopping for professional beauty supply at wholesale price
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