Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SPIRITUAL SMACK: VALUING + FORGIVING EMOTIONS


This smack is one that I personally have been adamant about practising myself recently as I have become even more aware of my self-talk. Emotions have always been a difficult topic for me; I am an utterly sensitive soul. I consequently often find myself feeling vulnerable, disconnected, or misunderstood. My internal talk in these situations is always "I am unheard," or its related varying feelings of anger, scared, or frustrated. 

This generally leads to retraction or its complete opposite of a deep but tearing conversation that touches upon tangential issues or feelings. Rather than creating a deeper understanding of the leveled complexity of emotions, these tangents do not resolve the issue at hand and thus imprint yet another traumatic understanding of our emotions. They become repeatedly seen as undervalued, impossible to understand, + blocking connexions with others. 

This week, I urge you to listen to these negative feelings if and when they emerge + be completely present with them. Acknowledge + greet your emotions rather than allowing yourself to be stricken in paralysis of past experiences or habitual reactions. Greet your anger, your sadness, your defenses. Attempt to locate its origin. This will allow you to not only gain a deeper understanding of your reactions but also value your negative emotions + forgive yourself for having them. Subsequently, you will be able to lift your own emotional wall that previously blocked you from seeing the other's. 

Everyone has their own narrative that causes deeply imprinted habitual emotional reactions. Let's take the sweet time to listen to our stories so we can lend an empathetic ear to those of others . . .

Monday, January 26, 2015

BEAUTY BITES: BONE BROTH


Bone broth . . . how I can ever fit the love I have for this magical, healing, nourishing-to-the-bone [no pun intended] elixir into a blog post is out of my mind's reach. I put bone broth into most everything and anything, and if I am not, I can ensure you that I have had at least a cup that day. It boosts the flavour profile of any meal with an umami quality that an unfamiliar tongue would be in disbelief of the source being a humble broth. 


Humble so, this recipe is an ancient traditional food that has been cooked for centuries to honour + respect the sacrifice of an animal. The meat is cooked and the bones, knuckles, necks, + feet are traditionally simmered for hours to make a rich broth that results in no waste and a consequent respect for the animal. 

Making broth at my house is a labour of love. When I am home in D.C., we source our bones from the quaint little Organic Butcher that carries the most tantalising [to say the least] selection of local grass-fed and pasture-raised meats. It's a small shop lined with cases of high-quality meats and housed by even higher-quality employees. The line sometimes props the door open and spills into the street but these servers smile + serve each customer as if they're the only ones present. Customer service at its prime . . .

When I am in the Pioneer Valley, I purchase my bones either from the local Farmer's Markets or from Sutter Meats, a small butcher shop that I recently stumbled upon. All I can say is do not go in there if you are hungry because the scent of the roasting, smoking, + broth-boiling of tender meats will overtake your poor little mouth. Jaw drops, stomach sinks, + cartoon-rendition of eyeballs turn into slabs of meat . . .

Turning back to broth! This food not only tastes divine but is one of my ultimate beauty arsenals. This mineral [calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, + potassium], amino acid [arginineglycineglutamine and proline], and collagen-dense food will make your skin glow like the sun that we rarely see in the Northeastern winter's gloom and shine like a full moon. It will also firm fine lines and plump up your skin like a pretty little summer plum. Anti-aging without the toxic botox, injected naturally into your cells via a bowl + spoon . . .

It is also deeply healing for the gut, which is extremely important if you are healing from autoimmune issues as I am. I might even say this is my number one love when it comes to food . . . a hair close to my beautiful mama's slow-cooked leg of lamb. That is the ultimate treat made with love that pours out of every single cell in her laboring hands. Maybe, maybe one day I will share the recipe . . . 


T R A D I T I O N A L   B O N E   B R O T H  
3 chicken feet | contains extra healing gelatin [I still have a hard time looking at them without squealing when the plop to the surface!]
3-4 pounds organic, grass fed oxtail and/or beef thigh bone, neck, or knuckle |  it will most likely have meat attached + that is ok as it brings in extra flavour
Optional herbs/vegetables:
2 inches of organic young ginger root
1 inch of organic turmeric root
a sprig of dried Rosemary
3 whole organic onions, sliced thickly
¼ cup of raw, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar
8 quarts of alkaline water

Once I pick up the bones, I place them in a big stainless steel pot, pour enough alkaline water to simply cover them along with raw apple cider vinegar, + let the minerals leech out of the bones. I then fill it up with the seasonal vegetables I have selected or whatever scraps I have in hand, a dash and a sprinkle of herbs, + cover it with more water. I bring it to a boil then lower the heat to let it simmer for hours. Ideally, I let it simmer for 72 hours to ensure a dark, rich, gelatinous broth but 24 hours will do. 

I pour it into glass jars, refrigerate them, and consume it over three days. Whatever is left afterwards is frozen into ice cubes, which I later plop into a pan while cooking a meal or to sip on. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

FARMACY: DE-PUFF YOUR EYES

The post-holiday slump is still affecting many people out there and one of the ways it manifests is puffy eyes. We can't hide them, so some sort of remedy is necessary. A tried, true, and well-known trick to de-puff the yes is using old but wet tea bags or cucumber slices. There is another trick up your kitchen apron sleeve though: raw potato slices! Potatoes are perfect for de-puffing the eyes as they are astringent, which means they reduce water retention. The enzyme catalase present in potatoes also work to lighten dark under-eye circles, making potatoes a double-the-cheer winner in my home remedy book!

HOW TO:
Easy, peasy: cut two slices of potatoes and place one on each eye. Leave on for 10 minutes as you meditate, listen to music, or take a quick nap. Let the potatoes work their magic and wash the eye area once the time is up!

Extra tip: put your eye cream in the refrigerator—it's not only cooling on application but the colder temperature also reduces puffiness more effectively

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

HIGH VIBRATIONS: SUPERMOON IN AQUARIUS


January 20 marks the first SuperMoon New Moon in Aquarius of 2015 and it is super potent! Although I am quite sensitive to these changes, this new moon has been shaking me up + stirring up deep emotions. Many untapped memories, blocks, and, honestly, lies I have been telling myself have been surfacing within for me as of lately. I had been subconsciously aware of them but had been shrugging my shoulders or shutting my eyes. With the culmination of over-boiled feelings, I feel deeply connected with tonight's moon + welcome its guidance with arms + heart wide open—why don't you join me . . .

As the first SuperMoon of the year, this New Moon is a period of new beginnings. So is the beginning of a new semester, as today marks the first day of classes for many. Here's to setting a grounding, supportive, + honest tone to our new beginnings with these astral insights. Let's LISTEN . . .

This presents the challenge to persevere in the face of the unknown, in the face of fearIn order to find our place in the world and the universe, we have to take some risks. It isn’t always easy, but the rewards are worth the challenges. To be true to ourselves sometimes requires that we make other people or even ourselves uncomfortable. There is no getting around that fact.
We are creatures of comfort and we like predictable routines. But those routines so often cause stagnation and prevent us from moving forward…” There is a very personal, paradigmatic shift approaching for each of us with this lunation. Can we defy our fears to see what’s behind the veil of our illusions? Can we trust the universe enough to provide us with the experiences most needed to further our evolutionary growth?
[This] represents our ability to radically and suddenly break free from the past, but it also shows our addictions to impulsivity, restlessness and even conflict as a means to deal with situations that are calling for more grace, harmony, compromise and collaboration.

This New Moon almost reminds me of a turnstile. We are moving away from one thing and moving towards another- but the New Moon itself is that space in between where we moving through the turnstile, but not quite through it just yet. Turnstiles are interesting because once you fully get through them they block you from reentering the place you just came through.
“And that is the most potent potential of this New Moon. Major new beginnings, predicated by major endings/ cleansings / completions. And once we fully get through that turnstile- there is no looking back. So think wisely, act consciously, and set masterful intentions with this New Moon!
From the astrologers Chad Woodward + Divine Harmony respectively, from the always magical Mystic Mama

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

BEAUTY BITES: ARTICHOKES, SKIN, HAIR, + NAILS


Those who find me cooking or baking in the kitchen will quickly realise that I am all for making use of scraps. This might entail making mineral-dense bone broth [more on that later] or quick beauty cures. 

One beauty tip I use while I'm in the kitchen involves citrus + oils. I use lemon or lime as well as coconut or olive oil daily. Last night as I was making cooked artichoke bottoms, I used both + made sure to take care of my skin while I was at it . . .

By making an artichoke dish, I was already preparing to nourish my skin internally as artichokes are one of the top skin foods. These woody, fibrous vegetables boosts the skin's luminosity. Artichokes are packed with antioxidants + peptides that fight against free radical formation, improve skin texture, + provide deep nourishment to the tissues. Also, simply take it from the plant itself: artichoke is a winter flower bud . . . how much closer can you get to a beauty food than eating a flower bud? Pretty eats galore!

Vitamins A, B and C as well as calcium and phosphorus in artichokes also make for stronger locks. These vitamins and minerals revive dull + lifeless hair by providing strength + a little bounce! A double skin and hair revision is a perfect antidote in my book for this stripping Winter weather.

Apart from incorporating artichokes in their whole form into your diet, you can also substitute processed sugars or agave nectar for Jerusalem Artichoke Sweetener. I like this one!
Back to the kitchen from my little digression . . . To nourish my skin from the outside as I was cooking last night [so much rhyme!], I used some lemon + olive oil. After I was done juicing the lemon called for the artichokes, I simply rubbed the inside of the lemon on each nail. Once dry, I poured some cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil into the prepared dish + also into a little cup. I soaked my nails in this for five minutes. Quick brightening from the lemons + moisture boost from the olive oil! Best kitchen trick of chic French women + also my beautiful grandmother . . .

Photo courtesy of Kinfolk

STRIPPED: DOUBLE CLEANSING


Double the cleansing power, double the fun! 
There are a few parts of my beauty routine that I thoroughly enjoy as much as washing my face. There's something deeply meditative and even cathartic about it—all of the day's worries, anger, + irrelevancies forming into innocent little sudsy bubbles + drowning away in the sink . . .
So, when I first heard about double-cleansing two years ago, I was all ears! This practise is not news like the no 'poo movement; it has been around for ages within the skin care routine of Japanese women. The initial cleansing is to remove the base layer of make-up, dirt, + debris while the second cleansing gives a squeaky clean deep pore finish.

There are definitely some potential drawbacks to this method, though, if you have extremely dry skin or as the colder months arrive: it can be moisture-stripping for some. If you do use a balancing moisturiser, however, and make sure to switch to a heavier duty one during Winter, you could certainly give double-cleansing a go!
Have you ever tried double cleansing? What are your thoughts? 

Monday, January 12, 2015

SPIRITUAL SMACK: STRIP YOUR MEDITATION


Truth bomb: I have not sat down for my daily meditation in two days. That is something that would have made me feel very uncomfortable in the past as, for those who know me well, I am a creature of habit + my daily 11 minute meditation is a priority. I came to realise, however, that I can make the time to 'informally' meditate on days when it seems like an ideal meditation is somehow out-of-reach. There are just some days when I am overwhelmed by the thought of sitting down for my regular meditation. It seems counterintuitive, but the mind is complex + I am only human. I have made peace with myself about this struggle.

So, on such days, I simply take a minute or two to close my eyes before I begin my work. I don't attempt to make it fancy or structured—I simply let my mind be . . . If my mind wanders, I let it wander then circle back to my centre. I allow my whole being to simply surrender. Longer meditations can sometimes get in the way of that letting-go with the structure of a given time. I just allow my mind to guide me towards what it needs + for how long. 

Try this simple meditation this week + begin to see the deep healing that arises when your heart guides your meditation rather than your watch . . .

Friday, January 9, 2015

FARMACY: COOKWARE



After my post on what oils to use when cooking, numerous people have additionally requested a post on the best cookware to use. This post is also for one of my physical therapists who had asked me a while back about what cookware to buy in place of her Teflons that she was ready to get rid of. So, I have curated a list of cookware for you that I believe to be the healthiest alternatives to non-stick / Teflon pans that leach PFOAs [perfluorooctanoic acid], which are both complicated to pronounce + for your body. Indeed, PFOA is toxic chemical that is a carcinogen. You can read more about PFAOs + their effects here as well as here. Teflon + nonstick pans also release toxic fumes when heated.

I suggest you simply throw out any of these nonstick cookwares + buy new ones from the list below. Some of these pots + pans are on the higher price range, but I firmly believe that anything that has to do with our health is an investment that is worth the pretty penny . . .

CAST IRON
There is no cookware in my opinion that cooks as well as cast iron does, espceially if you're trying to attain a grilled flavour in the foods you're cooking. The fact that cast iron has been used as cookware for thousands of years can attest to this. It conducts heat very well + is perfect for recipes that calls for the transferring of food from stove to oven. One thing to be cautious about with cast iron cookware, however, is if you have high blood iron levels. This is because cast iron cookware leach inorganic iron into food. This should not be a concern though for people who are low in iron or who have healthy levels of it.

Many people don't want to bother with cast iron because they have heard that it's high maintenance. I don't think this is necessarily true but it does require some maintenance. You must never use soap or detergent on your cast iron cookware. A cast iron pan needs to be "seasoned" by being swished in water after cooking, coated with oil [high heat oils such as coconut oil, tallow, or lard from grass-fed sources], then put in the oven for 300 degrees for around two hours. Once in the oven, it needs to be taken out periodically [around three times] to be wiped + re-oiled. So, ok, it might be a little high maintenance, but the flavour you obtain when cooking with cast iron is worth all the [pun intended] elbow grease . . . 

budget | Lodge 12'' skillet
luxury | Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron 12'' Frying Pan

ENAMEL
Enamel tends to be more expensive than cast iron, but its higher price point reflects itself through its incredible stable heat retention. I think it's the closest one can come to non-stick cookware without the use of chemical-leeching Teflons. The best enamel cookware is cast iron enamel, but stainless steel or ceramic are just as good of an option.

The easy clean up + non-stick surface of enamel also lends itself to be a great cookware option for braising or recipes that call for slow cooking + a stable temperature. 

luxury | Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron 11 3/4'' Skillet or Le Creuset Stoneware Baker

STAINLESS-STEEL
Stainless steel cookware is my go-to for when I want to quickly whip up something, whether that is sauéeing, searing meats, or warming up broths/soups. They're easy to clean + heat up much more quickly than enamel or cast iron although stainless steel doesn't retain + conduct heat as well. Another drawback to some [but not for me as I do enjoy cooking with plenty of fats] is that stainless steel cookware does require an adequate amount of fat to obtain a non-stick surface, but this should not be a problem with the flavour that the use of good fats provide . . .

luxury |All-Clad Tri-Ply Stainless-Steel Fry Pan

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

FARMACY: SMOOTHIES + THE HOLY KALE




A growing number of people who are switching to a healthier, whole foods + plant-centric diet often are enthused about their consumption of green smoothies. I suppose this is because of the social media equation of green smoothies to being über health-conscious. It's hard to come across an Instagram page that doesn't have a snapshot of a smoothie from the New Yorker's Juice Generation to L.A. Juice. As much as I am a proponent of these lifestyle + diet changes— especially of those switching from a SAD Diet, more on that here—I do have some concerns about smoothie consumption . . .

I preface this post, just like with other posts on nutrition, with the statement that I am not a health practitioner and that, although it is quite extensive, this is solely my own research. Please consult your own doctor before incorporating lifestyle or diet changes . . .

THYROID HEALTH
The first of my concerns is the affect of raw cruciferous vegetables, which make up the base of most smoothies, on thyroid health. There has been increased research surrounding the consumption of raw vegetables and, more specifically, cruciferous vegetables or Brassicaceae. These include: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon radish, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, land cress, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, shepherd's purse, turnip, and lastly, watercress

I have italicised those vegetables that are consumed more popularly, either in the form of a salad or in a smoothie and predominantly in its raw form. I'll focus on kale as it's the hype and is thrown into every other green smoothie possible.

The two issues that arise with kale is the consumption of two substances called goitrogens and oxalates. Let's focus on the former first . . . 

A goitrogen is a substance that inhibits the uptake of iodine, which the body cannot make and the thyroid needs in order to produce hormones at optimum conditions. There are certain foods that have a  goitrogenic effect when consumed in excess or consumed by a person who already has thyroid issues or is low in iodine. In addition to the cruciferous vegetables mentioned above, other foods that have this effect include sweet potatoes, yuca, millet, + soy products.

Keeping the consumption of these foods at a couple of times a week is healthy for most individuals, but consuming them every day and especially in their raw form can be detrimental, especially for those whom thyroid function is already suppressed or iodine levels are low. At a high level of consumption, even supplementation with iodine or eating foods rich in iodine [such as kelp] won't reverse the effects of these goitrogens as they interfere with its uptake into the thyroid hormone. So, if someone is suffering from Hashimoto's Disease, for example, it is probably not a good idea to have green smoothies with raw kale or dark leafy greens in the morning. It is not a great idea either for even an otherwise healthy individual to consume such a green smoothie every single morning. We all need variety + we need a well-functioning thyroid, and a solid breakfast, but more on that later . . .

Good news is that we can reduce the goitrogenic effect of these foods by cooking them properly. The most effective way to decrease these substances is through steaming these foods, which can reduce goitrogens from thirty to up to around eighty percent. Here is one exemplary study if you're interested.

The problem here that many will raise, however, that cooking sometimes also kills heat-sensitive + beneficial phytonutrients that are present in fruits and vegetables. Yes, although some foods lose certain phytonutrients through cooking, other nutrients are also increased through this process in addition to the reduction of goitrogens. 

This is not to say that I believe that one should stop consuming these otherwise very nutritious + delicious foods, even in the case of thyroid dysfunction. I believe in moderation with everything. So, although I would suggest keeping the consumption of, say, raw kale or collard greens to a minimum if you have thyroid issues, I would allow your own body to be your guide. Try steaming these vegetables before putting them in your smoothie and see how your symptoms manifest themselves. If you don't have thyroid dysfunction, I would suggest that you simply keep the consumption of these foods at a moderate level—just a couple of times a week—and cook them properly.

PREGNANCY
Pregnant women should also be extra cautious as those with thyroid dysfunction are when it comes to goitrogenic foods as a developing baby's thyroid hormone uptake is sensitive. Overconsumption of these foods would consequently be more than just possibly detrimental to the mama. I would stick to steaming these foods before consumption + discarding the water.

CHINESE MEDICINE + NOURISHMENT
Chinese Medicine is also another aspect to consider when approaching these foods and the consumption of raw foods in general. Especially during these colder Winter months, we should be increasing the consumption of warmer foods according to Chinese Medicine. This is the case most of the time actually according to TCM as raw foods are very taxing on digestion. You can see this even through most asian cuisine as vegetables are predominantly consumed cooked and it's very unlikely that you'll see a big bowl of cold, raw salad on these tables. Warm foods do just that to our bodies—they warm them up, increase the flow of qi, + deeply ground us. Beginning the day with a raw smoothie with raw vegetables + frozen fruits [which most people also add in] is quite shocking to your digestion that is just barely waking up. Save your sleepy little body the rude wake-up call + nourish it with a wholesome + warm breakfast. You could have some green juice [my go-to includes some romaine, mint, cucumber, ginger, + lemon and follow it with a good, solid breakfast. Think pasture-raised, organic eggs cooked in coconut oil or ghee, for example or even a warm cup of soup. RISE + SHINE!



photo courtesy of Amanda Chantal Bacon

Sunday, January 4, 2015

HIGH VIBRATIONS: FULL MOON ON CANCER


The Cancer FULL MOON on January 4th/5th marks the first full moon of the New Year. This is a period of activation + liberation for those who tune into its vibrations during the increasing shifts that occur with the entrance into a new year. If we are attuned to the Universe + ourselves at this time, balance + great release awaits us from what has bounded us up in the past, especially of emotions . . .

Here are some astral insights to guide you to a deeper understanding of yourself under the energy of tonight's new moon:

This Full Moon is actually a Grand Cross Full Moon- which means there are planets in all the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) and they are all squaring or opposing each other…”  This brings up crisis points but also the potential for major realization, aha moments and inner or outer shifts in our personal lives, relationships, home/family situations and career or life purpose. 

We can use this Full Moon to get clarity on where we are holding on and what we need to let go of- and because the Full Moon is in emotional Cancer part of what we need to let go of is our emotional attachment to the past

With Sirius on the Grand Cross Full Moon, we have amazing opportunities to access Higher Wisdom and Higher Love- all we have to do is be open and receptive to it this week. Uranus on the South Node points to our ability to break free from karmic patterns and the past- but it also points to our addiction to the past and the strength and courage it will take for us to break free. A Sun-Pluto conjunction activates a deep, deep drive for total renewal. And any outbursts of raw energy brought on by the cardinal big squeeze can be cathartic, and freeing

We again find ourselves at a crossroads of consciousness. Will we revert back to our old ways of thinking and doing or will we step into our power and actually create the life we crave?” This Cancer Full Moon wants us to pay attention to our real needs and passions.  This potent combination says that the choice is ours—will we align with our soul’s purpose or continue to sleep-walk through life as a servant of patriarchy and corporate consumerism? It is a wake-up call—don’t sleep through it!


photo via Dragontrees, astral insights via Mystic Mama

Friday, January 2, 2015

STRIPPED: DRY SHAMPOO + LULU ORGANICS


Dirty hair? Clean it up with Lulu Organics! 

Although I swear by washing my hair every other day to prevent frizzy hair + dryness, even that can sometimes be a little drying. After all, my hairdresser does recommend every two days. Waiting that long, however, seems like a lifetime for me as I used to enjoy washing my hair every day [when I had not realised its affect on frizziness]

In comes dry shampoo on that second day. I have tried many dry shampoos in the past but nothing beats Lulu Organics's teensy but potent little travel-sized hair powders. Apart from their beautiful little design that makes me feel like the goddess that adorns their containers, these hair powders smell absolutely divine! I want to pouf it up in the room like Marie Antoinette but then I would look like this . . .

 Although I do enjoy even strongly scented lavender products, the scents here are subtle unlike many perfume-esque gamut of dry shampoos I have come across. It's just enough to have a little aromatherapeutic experience with the natural essential oils these blends contain. 

The ingredients that power these products are baking soda + corn starch that work to absorb excess oils. Rice powder is also added to detangle your not-so-Queen B I woke up like this hair while soothing the scalp. White clay and horsetail powder rich in silica also stimulate hair growth + strength while simultaneously providing moisture for your dry locks. Two claps and a cheer for prim + proper hair! 

Although I have not purchased the full-sized version yet, the travel-size for me is the perfect amount as I don't use dry shampoo every day and consequently, it lasts months. It's the perfect go-to to tame anything from oiliness or disastrous blowouts!

Get yours at Spirit Beauty Lounge or directly at the Lulu Organics website . . .