Block Island Organics Sunscreen

Now that summer is about to officially be here next week, sunscreen is on all of our shopping lists. While getting a sunburn is certainly dangerous to your health so is a poorly chosen, chemical-laden sunscreen. Thankfully, there are a lot of truly healthy AND protective sunscreens on the market today. Courtesy of the EWG (Environmental Working Group) you can now know just how healthy a sunscreen is before you purchase it. A rating of 1 is the best and healthiest rating while a 10 is you guessed it – the most health hazardous.

Ideally, you should choose a sunscreen that gets a 1, like this natural mineral sunscreen from Block Island Organics. The EWG even named it 2016’s Best Beach & Sport Sunscreen!

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{Photo Credit: Block Island Organics}

The productBlock Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30

What it’s good for: Preventing highly unenjoyable and health hazardous sunburns. Also, guarding against premature aging of the skin! 

Key natural ingredient: Zinc oxide (22%).  In general, this formula is vegan, gluten-free and eco-friendly (no ingredients have been shown to harm reefs). 

The price tag: $19.99 (for a 3.4 fl oz bottle)

Where to buy: BlockIslandOrganics.com or check out their Store Locator  

My favorite perk: Most importantly, it gets the healthiest score possible (a 1) from the EWG, but I also love how this sunscreen is lightweight and non greasy. Unlike a lot of natural mineral sunscreens, this one rubs in nicely. Of course, make sure not to apply it in excessive amounts because that will make it harder to rub in completely.

DISCOUNT FOR MY READERS: Use the code annie on the Block Island Organics website to receive 20% off your entire purchase from June 15, 2016 through June 24, 2016.*Please note that this code is not combinable with any other codes or discounts.  

Hope you all have a sunny, healthy, fun and relaxing summer!

Truly Unique Mascara!

Have you ever used a mascara that completely came off (I mean 100%!) with just water? I never had until I tried No7 Stay Perfect Mascara by Boots. I have been using it for over a year now and I still can’t believe that it completely comes off with water alone. AND that it’s actually a really awesome mascara!

 

                                 {Photo Credit: Boots Retail USA}

 

The product: Boots No7 Stay Perfect Mascara – Black

What it’s good for: Defining and lengthening your eyelashes without clumping or smudging. Lasts all day and when you’re ready to take it off, you simply hold a cotton pad soaked in warm water over your eye for 30 seconds and then gently wipe away the little tubes of color that were covering your eyelashes. I actually don’t even use a cotton pad – just my fingers (gently) and warm water!

Key natural ingredients: kaolin  & beeswax

The price tag: $9.99

Where to buyBoots or Target

My favorite perk: I have two!

#1 – I actually found this magical wonder of a mascara when I was on EWG’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database looking for a healthier mascara. Stay Perfect scored a 2 (the closer to 0 the better/healthier).

#2 – Until I found this mascara, I rarely ever removed my mascara completely on the first try. I typically opted for an oil like jojoba as my mascara remover since it did the job and was nourishing rather than drying and harsh like a lot of makeup removers. With every previous mascara I’ve tried (including natural versions), I would always be taken a q-tip the next morning and removing leftover mascara from underneath my eyes. I used to hate it when I would have a hint of darkness under my eyes all day that only later would I realize was mascara, not lack of sleep.

With Boots No7 Stay Perfect Mascara, I have NEVER had any mascara left behind, but just as importantly, taking off my mascara each night could not be easier. If you’ve been frustrated with the effort it takes to remove your eye makeup and you also want to choose a healthier option then you should definitely try this mascara!

Cancer & My Dad

For all these years that I’ve had my blog, I’ve never been that blogger that shares her daily activities or shares much of her personal life and struggles really much at all. My blog has always been more about sharing the best of the best when it comes to natural health and beauty. But in recent months, the past 20 months to be exact, my absence in the blogosphere has been due to my dad’s health struggles and my own resulting struggle with relentless anxiety and stress.

In August 2014, my dad got diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer that had spread to his liver.  The past year and a half I thought about blogging about my experience with my dad’s cancer diagnosis, but it just never happened. Now that he has passed (December 24, 2015), I hope it might be helpful to share his experience and my experience with the ever evolving world of cancer treatment.

As a holistic health counselor, I was my dad’s “Doctor Annie” or “Nurse Annie” on a daily basis whether it was via several phone calls per day or monthly trips to take care of him in Florida.  It came natural to me to try to help him, but trying to guide him on his health choices when it came to cancer was extremely overwhelming and intimidating.  From the start, he opted for radiation and chemo. Both scared me immensely, but the tumor in his esophagus was so bad that he was literally not able to eat or even drink water, EVERYTHING was coming up. He had to get a feeding tube put in within days of his cancer diagnosis. Giving him multiple feedings per day through the feeding tube was thankfully not as scary or weird as I had expected, but he was in very, very bad shape. When he started chemo (at first it was 6 hours per day weekly), it was one of the hardest and saddest days of my life. I didn’t let myself cry in front of him somehow and he was stoic as usual. Thirty four years as a detective, he had seen and experienced so much, but I could tell by the look on his face that day that it also was one of his hardest days in 78 years.

On top of the weekly chemo, he added on 21 treatments of radiation (21 days in a row) in November – December 2015. If chemo wasn’t enough and radiation wasn’t enough on top of that, he also had developed an infection in his feeding tube.  For over 45 days (in a row), he had to go to a center for disease control where they gave him a drip of antibiotics for 3-4 hours at a time.  Some days he was doing hours of a chemo drip, hours of an antibiotic drip PLUS radiation all in the same day! It was insane. He would be completely wiped out and would sleep as much as he could and keep on fighting… In retrospect, it’s truly incredible we had him here for another year after that.

To make things even worse and scarier, the infection in the feeding tube wasn’t improving and he was going in and out of the hospital on a weekly basis.  FINALLY, they realized they weren’t giving him the right antibiotic (SERIOUSLY?!) and eventually he got the right one.  The infection did eventually get better and the feeding tube came out after a month plus. Such a relief.

Thankfully he was able to eat again, but of course had to be careful with his food choices. A lot of common foods still weren’t going down easily. Plus, he was also trying to fight his cancer with his diet. From the start of his diagnosis, he was listening to me quite impressively on how he needed to change his diet and he did a lot of great anti-cancer protocols (like juicing fresh vegetables, turmeric, no sugar, etc). I was doing as much research as I could. The thing was that it was often such a catch-22 for me because I wanted to help him in every way possible, but I reasonably and spiritually knew from the start that his fight against cancer would so much have to do with his own thoughts, his faith, his daily choices from doctors to medicine to supplements to snacks to meals. I knew I could not save him, but I truly tried to do all I could possibly do to help him on a daily basis.

To make a really long story somewhat less long, the tumor in his esophagus shrunk by December 2015 and was COMPLETELY gone by February of 2015. Awesome. So, so, so awesome. But not according to his cancer/chemo doctor. I happened to be in Florida and at that appointment when we got the great news. I was in the room as the doctor showed the images and reports that showed my dad no longer had a tumor in his esophagus – the most major and deadly health problem he had been dealing with for months. To my and my husband’s complete dismay, the doctor told my dad that the tumor was gone like it had been a hang nail.  What the doctor did make a big deal about and emphasize to the upmost degree was that there were more “cancerous” spots in my dad’s liver. I say “cancerous” because they never did a biopsy. AND Mayo Clinic as well as many other respectable, mainstream health experts even says that PET scans must be interpreted carefully because noncancerous conditions can look like cancer, and many types of cancer do not appear on PET scans. There is also a list of the cancers that are most likely to show up on PET scans. The liver is not on the list. I wasn’t and I’m still not trying to be in denial about his liver. Maybe it was cancer. But MAYBE it wasn’t? I so wish he had gotten a biopsy to be absolutely sure. If those were cancerous spots in his liver then on the very positive side, during those 16 months from when my dad got diagnosed to when he passed, the cancer never came back in his esophagus and there was never cancer found anywhere else in his body. That was SO huge and prayers answered.

Back to this doctor and the results. It gets better – and by better, I mean worse – my dad asked the doctor “what should I do now?”  The doctor’s response: my dad could have a break from chemo. Ok. He added… “Go get a margarita! Go get some hookers and cocaine!”  I’m not joking.  This “doctor” (so not deserving of the title by any stretch) was telling my father who had just beat esophageal cancer and supposedly still had some cancerous spots in his liver that he should go drink alcohol and get some prostitutes. We’re from New York, we joke a lot, but this just wasn’t funny on so many levels.  1. My dad was completely discouraged by the way the doctor had presented the results. Like getting rid of an esophageal cancerous tumor was no big deal.  2.  My dad had his young daughter in the room who was clearly beyond concerned for her dad’s health. This doctor was just being a weirdo and totally disrespectful.  3.  We were completely surrounded by framed pictures of this doctor’s young children. If they could have only heard how daddy talks to his patients. 4.  This doctor looked like the cheshire cat as he talked about booze and babes, but barely grinned when he delivered the best possible news.  5. On a serious health note, alcohol and sugar are two of the last things you want to have when you’re fighting cancer.

Hands down, one of the worst doctor experiences of my life. I found my dad a new doctor pretty much the next day. Of course at the time I’m thinking “how am I not blogging about this and letting people know what goes on?” I just couldn’t then. Plus, I would say then and I’ll say now, that of course, there are doctors out there that treat cancer conventionally, but also have a much better emotional IQ and hopefully also have real knowledge of cancer’s roots and are also very knowledgable of the scientifically proven natural treatments. I said “of course” in that sentence because I assume cancer doctors like this must exist. Unfortunately, we never came across any of them.

The thing about chemo is that there is currently a lot of guess work going on in this country. Multiple oncologists told my dad multiple times that they didn’t know if it was the right chemo for him aka if it would even work. Chemo is no joke. Doing chemo when you don’t even know if it will have any positive effects – you’re REALLY  rolling the dice.  Like with my dad, who ended up opting for more chemo for those liver spots.  He went through months and months of additional chemo only to have the scans keep coming back with more and more bad spots. Sooo if those spots were cancer then the chemo treatments were making them worse. Yep.  If the spots weren’t cancer and were damage, then again, the chemo was only doing more damage. Either way, what a shitty way to treat a serious and possibly deadly illness – by guessing.

The thing with chemo (and I just can’t stomach getting into all of the side effects right now, but you can easily google and find them) is that even when it does kill the cancer cells, it also kills all the good bacteria (think probiotics) in your body too. The chemo was absolutely devastating to my dad’s entire system.  He had side effect after side effect and it went on and on and on and on…even 6 months plus after stopping chemo, they just kept going on…until he passed.

Rewind a bit. My husband and I (and our golden lab puppy, Mable) moved in with my dad on November 3, 2015. He wasn’t doing well at all, but were hopeful that all of our prayers, healthy cooking, love, help and attention IN PERSON would really help. Plus, Mable’s animal therapy. He met her and loved her just as expected. Day after day, we were doing everything and anything we could think of to help dad get out of his funk – to reboot himself both physically and mentally. But nothing seemed to have a lasting effect.

After a week or two of being in Florida with him, we found out that he had randomly gotten a call from his radiation doctor (who he hadn’t seen in a year) and he went to see him. I’m sure my dad complained to him – justifiably he had a lot to complain about – but this doctor hadn’t seen my dad in over a year, hadn’t been following my dad’s case, didn’t know my dad as the larger than life resilient character that he was, and he certainly wasn’t God. But apparently this guy knew that my dad had 3 months left, tops.  Thanks grim reaper.

A few weeks later, my dad had a check up with his heart doctor. I definitely just said heart doctor, not oncologist. Well this doctor immediately jumped on the grim reaper band wagon. My dad said how he felt so crummy. The doctor tapped my dad’s liver area and said there was nothing my dad could do to feel better, it was just the cancer taking its course. Fuming inside is beyond an understatement. I can only imagine how I glared at this doctor from two feet away. I told my dad in the car afterwards that this doctor couldn’t possibly KNOW how bad my dad was doing. Just like the radiation doctor didn’t know.  They weren’t treating him currently for cancer and they by no means had the full picture.

Of course, my dad’s spirits were low and these doctors probably played off of that. And it was up to my dad to buy what they were selling, or not.  But when my dad passed on December 24th one of the main contributing factors was not the cancer per se, but a rapid and extreme downhill spiral that began with that same heart doctor prescribing a blood thinner to my dad that resulted in his blood being so thin when we brought him to the hospital December 5th that the doctors said he would have bled out and died if he had taken the slightest fall!  And a fall was not unlikely with how weak he was.

My dad had been sharp as a tack his entire life. He remembered the license plates of bad guys up until he started taking that blood thinner. Even through the chemo, I was so grateful that his mind had stayed in tact. But after those blood thinners – suddenly he didn’t know who his family was, what was going on, or anything. I so feel for anyone dealing with a loved one who has dementia. Just 3 weeks of that experience was so incredibly devastating and hard.

So that blood thinner his heart doctor had put him on… One doctor at the hospital said aspirin was a much smarter choice with a lot less scary side effects….Another doctor said that “no one with half a brain” would have put my dad on that blood thinner when he was in such weak cheap.  Oh, I almost forgot – when my dad first started taking the blood thinner (around December 1st) and seeming not himself, I called the heart doctor’s office and got one of the nurses. I told her nicely that I was concerned at my dad’s changes and that we were worried about the side effects of the blood thinner. Not only was the tone of her voice unpleasant, but she actually screamed at me “that’s why we don’t tell people to read the side effects!!! They would never take the prescriptions.”  (My mind: WHAT?!!?!?) I replied to her “EXACTLY. Because the side effects are TERRIFYING!” That was the end of that call.

I wrote letters to all of these doctors I’ve mentioned since my dad passed. I don’t hold them responsible for my dad’s death because none of them are God and it was always up to my dad to make his own decisions. I try to remember what my dad always said “when it’s your time, it’s your time.” However, I do hold them accountable for their terrible misguidance and disgusting discouragement. I really hope they don’t continue to treat patients the way they treated my dad.

In addition to having bad experiences with modern medicine, my dad also had an unpleasant experience with an alternative cancer doctor. (Sidenote: my point in writing this is not just to bash conventional cancer treatment) This doctor sounded great – classically trained, but with expertise in all the best, natural cancer treatments. He wasn’t nearly as bad as the other doctors, but he was still so disappointing. After one pleasant first visit, my dad would go in the office for his vitamin C drips and the doctor wouldn’t even come out to say hi. On top of that, he had sold my dad hundreds of dollars of supplements, a lot of which were in horse pill form. One of the things that likely contributed to my dad’s esophageal issues and that really bothered him once the tumor got really bad was taking supplements in capsule or tablet form, especially the huge, hard tablets. So this doctor really didn’t listen my dad’s concerns or think about what he was doing and just insisted on selling him all of these supplements. He also never offered him any additional support or advice after the first appointment. He sure did make a lot of money though.

So yeah, that guy wasn’t so great either, but thankfully the last doctor that my dad was seeing for natural cancer treatment was awesome.  The first day I had a chance to go with my dad to one of these appointments was this past November and I cried with happiness afterwards. This doctor’s office was sunny and bright just like his personality. The staff treated my dad like family and were so genuinely uplifting. The doctor would chat with my dad about his health (and a few police stories) for 30 minutes or more, like there was no shortage of time. It was SUCH a beautiful thing, especially after all he had been through. I’m so grateful to that doctor and his staff.

My dad had also been a diabetic since his 50s and had a massive heart attack 6 years earlier (a day after getting hip surgery) where he literally came back from being dead. Somehow even with all the pretests they hadn’t caught all the blockages in his heart. It turned out he was only working on 50% of a heart!  I had never thought his health situation was going to get scarier than that experience in 2009. I was definitely wrong. It was definitely going to get even scarier and more complicated. But for me, the bright spots throughout my dad’s health issues were and will always be his incredible spirit and resiliency, his faith, how close him and I were during those experiences and for my entire life.  And of course, all the love and prayers of friends, family, neighbors, and strangers. Thank you to all of you so, so, so much.

Thankfully, he died really peacefully while doing physical therapy. The nurse said that his heart just stopped. His last week or so, he was still pretty out of it, but he came back around enough to know who we were, make a few jokes and recall some old memories. He actually looked pretty great too. Nurses were guessing he was 60, not 79. He loved that.

My main purpose in writing this post is that I hope if you or someone you love is ever diagnosed with cancer, you might be able to learn something from my dad’s experience. On the negative side, that doctors won’t always be helpful and you shouldn’t just automatically trust and listen to every person in a white coat. Don’t be afraid to switch doctors or even treatment plans as needed! Remember that there are so, so, so many options for treatment when it comes to cancer. Don’t assume you MUST do anything before you do your research and give it some good thought. As hard as it is, try not to base your decisions on fear. Many people die from cancer, but many people also survive.  My dad was able to get rid of his tumor with a mix of conventional and alternative treatments, but the after effects combined with his other ongoing health issues were too much for him. But he did not die of cancer per se.

On the positive side, I think that being there with love, hope and faith for yourself or someone you care about is by far, the most important thing when it comes to any and every health issue. It’s so easy to feel alone when you’re dealing with a serious health issue like cancer. It’s even easy to feel alone when you’re trying to support someone who is dealing with cancer. But we are never alone in our struggles and there is always, always much to gain from even the worst times and losses of our lives.

Anyone who knew my dad knows how memorable he was, what a character he was, what a force he was, how loving and giving he was, how much he tried to help those he loved and strangers, a legendary detective for 34 years… I could go on and on. He was truly larger than life. This post is also to honor him and remember all that he overcame in his 79 years. I miss him more than I could ever explain, but he will live on in so many ways. 

DadNavy
In the navy, Cuba 1956
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My dance recital, 1985
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A glass of merlot at our favorite winery in Virginia
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Me & Dad aka “Lawman” working hard at the robbery squad, Mineola, NY 1988
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1975 award for catching the most successful bank robbers in history
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His favorite quote from his favorite movie, Unbroken
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The Ron-ster (self-given nickname)
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His resting place. The Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Island, December 31, 2015. Love you Dad.

Miraculous Marula Oil

Using oil on our faces has become quite popular lately, but for good reason — facial oils can improve hydration levels, elasticity and overall skin quality.  I recently tried ACURE’s Marula Oil, which is 100% pure and wildcrafted without pesticides. If you’re familiar with argan or jojoba oil, marula oil is less heavy than argan and more similar to jojoba.

What is marula and where does it come from? The Marula tree is in the same family (Anacardiaceae) as the cashew, mango, and pistachio nut and is indigenous to Southern Africa.

marulatree&fruit

{Photo Credit: ACURE ORGANICS}

The great thing about marula oil is that it works well for all skin types.  Aside from using it on my face and neck to moisturize and prevent fine lines, I’ve also loved using it as a split-end treatment and eye makeup remover.  When using the oil on your face or hair, a few drops go a long way so this bottle really lasts and is super reasonable at $15.99. The fact that it has no odor makes it an excellent choice for sensitive skin and/or sensitive noses.

marulaoil{Photo Credit: ACURE ORGANICS}

It’s also nice to know that purchasing ACURE’s Marula Oil supports The Marula Project, which provides economic empowerment to the South African women who harvest and process the oil.

Nail Polish with Essential Oils!

Pure Euphoria is a collection of nail polish that is not only 5-free (no Formaldehyde, Toulene, DBP, Camphor or Formaldehyde resin) and vegan, but is also infused with essential oils. I recently gave them a try and the polish is actually fragrant when dry! It’s like having an aromatherapy treatment at your fingertips, literally.

The line feature a variety of essential oils including ylang ylang, peppermint and lavender as well as essential oil blends. To see more about the color and scent choices check out their website: www.pureeuphoria.com.au

PureEuphoria

photo credit: Pure Euphoria

{Break Through  Beautiful Blend (US$15.53)

includes the essential oils:  Lime, Neroli, Sweet Orange, Cedarwood Atlas & Ylang Ylang}

Liver Cleansing Drink

Combine the following in 8 oz of hot water (boiled water cooled down to a drinkable temp):

  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground rosemary

LiverCleansingDrink(Photo Credit: Branch + Vine)

This mix is excellent for the liver and overall health (including cold and flu prevention)! I use fresh lime juice when I have it, but this organic lime juice I picked up at the health store the other day is great to have around, especially if you want to have this drink on a regular basis. It’s not easy to find rosemary powder so I just grind up organic whole dried rosemary in a spice grinder. For the turmeric, you can use dried or liquid.  For the honey, any good quality version is great. I splurged on Manuka recently, but usually I use a local raw honey. For the apple cider vinegar, you definitely want to make sure it’s a raw and unfiltered one.  For the cayenne powder, I use an organic brand, but if you don’t have organic on hand then that’s fine.  I honestly think it tastes pretty good and better than I expected!

B + V Etsy Shop Now Open!

So happy to announce that my Etsy shop is now officially open: ShopBranchandVine. This has been a goal of mine for a while so I’m really excited to have my products available to you for purchase!

More to come soon, but the three products below are currently ready for you to enjoy:

Ultra Healing All Purpose Balm ($7) ~ an all purpose balm that is ultra healing for the driest of skin and an array of other common skin ailments. It contains some of nature’s best healers including beeswax, olive oil, and coconut oil.

B+V Balm 1PURCHASE HERE: Branch + Vine Ultra Healing Balm

A Winter’s Eve Aromatherapy Room + Body Spray ($11) ~ all the best scents of winter combined: balsam fir needle, cinnamon leaf, and clove brightened by tangerine and orange. Friends and family have been obsessed with this uplifting blend.

B+V Room Spray 5PURCHASE HERE: Branch + Vine Aromatherapy Room + Body Spray

Branch + Vine Botanical Perfume Oils ($29) are handmade in small batches with the intention of creating fragrances that not only smell good, but encourage good health and a positive state of being. I have spent over two years testing, researching, and pouring a ton of thought and love into these botanical perfume oils. I wanted to create scents that do not have negative health effects (like synthetic scents), but actually have positive effects on your health and mood.  I hope you’ll smell good + feel good when you wear them :) The scent currently available for purchase (Saint Remy de Provence) is one of many to come!

B+V bpo 3PURCHASE HERE: Branch + Vine Botanical Perfume Oil

Internal Bug Repellent

Now that the bugs are biting again, it’s a good idea to have a natural bug repellent on hand, but there are also 2 things you can add to your diet to hopefully prevent the bugs from biting:

  1. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar to your daily diet (buy a good quality one like BRAGG). You can add the ACV to a glass of hot or cold water (quick but not the tastiest option), to homemade salad dressings in place of other vinegars, or to homemade soups (I do this for almost every soup I make).
  2. GARLIC: Eat more garlic each day. The list of meals you can add cooked or raw garlic to goes on and on, but some of my favorites include sauteed vegetables, pasta dishes, and baked fish.

acv&garlicphoto credit: branchandvinebeauty.com

I actually made a delicious homemade salad dressing last night that includes both of these mosquito-deterrents. Simply combine the following, mix well, and enjoy it on your next salad:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Makes about 8 servings and will last in the fridge up to 4 days. You can add more or less of any of the ingredients depending on your taste buds. I always adjust it a few times before I get it just right.

Hope the bugs leave you alone this 4th of July weekend!

 

Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Coconut Almond Granola

I finally tried making granola last night and I’m happy to say that it turned out really legit! My favorite granola as a kid was from this restaurant called Peaches in Florida so I wanted to recreate that one, which meant it had to have cinnamon + raisins + coconut + almond. There are lot of different things you can add to a general granola base, but I HIGHLY recommend this combo – it’s just SO tasty.

granola

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp sea or kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup honey (or a little more if you like your granola on the sweeter side)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Mix oats, cinnamon & salt in a bowl.
  3. Combine honey, oil & vanilla extract in a separate bowl.
  4. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until dried ingredients are thoroughly coated.
  5. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, stir, and then bake for an additional 10 minutes (or until granola looks golden brown).
  7. Let the granola cool for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (you will notice it starts to get harder).
  8. Add raisins, coconut & almonds.
  9. You just made granola! Now put it in an airtight container and it should be good for about 2 weeks.
  10. Enjoy! :)

 

Rejuvenate in Aix

I originally mentioned Thermes Sextius Spa in a post about a year and a half ago (time flies!) and have been meaning to do a review ever since.  Well here it is.

It was a hot August day and we had been walking around the incredible, alluring streets of Aix for hours when we stumbled upon Thermes Sextius. We couldn’t have asked for a better surprise. We debated spending the extra money, but really the price was quite reasonable at around 60 Euros per person for access to so many relaxing treatments for an entire day.  It was kind of like a European spa amusement park, but in the best way. Picture going from one rejuvenating treatment to the next minus any lines or crowds, repeating your favorites as many times as you like, and spending as many or as few minutes on each treatment. I spent about 3 hours rotating between the following: steam room, authentic Finnish sauna, tropical and marine rain showers, hot bath, cold bath, outdoor mineral spring pool, and lounging in the gardens. 3 words: heaven on earth.

The Thermes Sextius spring water, which is highly rich in minerals and trace elements, is used in all the hydrotherapy treatments. These medicinal waters promote overall healing of the body including circulation stimulation and tissue drainage.

Thermius-outside1

Thermius-outside

Thermius1   Thermes Sextius is built on the site of actual ancient Roman thermae. Traces of an ancient thermal pool are visible at the entrance.

Thermius2Entering the area for the outdoor mineral pool & gardens.

Thermius3

Thermius5During a week of nonstop traveling between Evian, Aix and Paris, these few hours were exactly what I needed half way through the trip to completely relax and rejuvenate. If you are ever in the South of France, I highly recommend visiting Aix-en-Provence and if you visit Aix then you must, must, must spend a few hours at this ancient healing oasis.

Perfect Hand Cream

The product: Geranium Shea Butter Hand Cream by The Soap & Paper Company.

What it’s good for: Your hands, of course. But it’s also great for dry elbows, feet, legs, etc.

Key natural ingredients: Shea Butter, Aloe, Coconut Oil, Cocoa Butter, Beewswax, Borage Oil, and Meadowfoam Oil.

The price tag: $18 (or possibly less – I found it for $4.99 at TJ Maxx!)

Where to buyOrder online (when it’s back in stock) or hope to find it in a discount store like I did. While the Geranium is out of stock, they also have so many other awesome scents to choose from.

My favorite perk: There is no room for improvement in the consistency of this hand cream. It is so rich, yet not greasy, and absorbs perfectly. I also love the strong geranium scent. I don’t normally like strong scents, but because they actually use essential oils, the scent is really natural and very calming (geranium is known for that). I highly recommend using it before bed so you can reap the aromatherapy benefits and maybe even fall asleep a bit easier.

**Since I wrote this post The Soap & Paper Company has unfortunately discontinued the geranium scent. Very sad, but I’m sure the consistency of the other hand creams are the same and the scent options are pretty amazing. I can’t wait to try the Neroli Hand Cream! What will it smell like? Pure orange blossom aka heaven.

 {Photo Credit: The Soap & Paper Factory}

 

Bean & Broccoli Soup

All Natural Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves (or more if you like) garlic chopped
  • half onion chopped
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen broccoli (I had frozen around so I used that and it turned out great)
  • 2 cans (15 oz) cannellini beans
  • 1 box (32 fl oz) of all natural chicken stock + 2 cups good quality water
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • a few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • sea salt + black pepper to taste

How to:

  1. Pour olive oil into large pot on medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and saute until tender and translucent (about 5 minutes)
  3. Pour in chicken stock + water
  4. Add broccoli + beans
  5. Add apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, cayenne/red pepper flakes, additional salt + pepper to taste
  6. Let simmer for at least 1 hour
  7. Enjoy!

photo credit: AllNaturalAnnie.com

Healthy Redos: Medicine Cabinet

  • INSTEAD OF ANTACIDS: Try digestive enzymes. A cup of peppermint or ginger tea can also work wonders.  Personally, I love chewing on a tiny piece of fresh ginger.

GingerYogiTea

{Yogi Ginger Tea}

  • INSTEAD OF IBUPROFEN: Bromelain (naturally found in pineapple) and Curcumin (naturally found in turmeric) have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and are most helpful for chronic conditions. If you need pain relief from an acute condition, like a sore throat or headache, white willow bark can help.

Bromelain

{Jarrow Formulas Bromelain}

  • INSTEAD OF SLEEPING PILLS: Try herbs like passionflower, valerian or lemon balm. Many people also have success with supplements like melatonin, tryptophan and 5-HTP.

Valerian

{Herb Pharm Valerien Liquid Herbal Extract}

  • INSTEAD OF COUGH MEDICINE: Try a teaspoon of honey before bed. Honey has been shown in studies to be as effective as the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. My favorite cough and cold remedy from my mom is mixing the juice of a large lemon with about 2 tablespoons of honey and a splash of hot water and sipping on it slowly. Works like a charm.

lemon-and-honey

Hope these suggestions help you end 2013 and start 2014 on a naturally healthier note! :)

Before & After Sun

I recently tried two perfect products for summer from a fabulous ayurvedic line called PRATIMA.  The founder, Dr. Pratima Raichur, an expert chemist, botanist and Ayurvedic physician, creates her magical skincare products using 100% herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, plants and minerals from the earth. And 100% is truly a 100%. When you read a PRATIMA ingredient label it is guaranteed to be really simple and pure. These are two PRATIMA products I’m loving right now:

  • Neem Rose Face Sunscreen SPF 30 — This sunscreen combines neem, shatavari (a species of asparagus) and rose with zinc oxide to protect against harmful UVA, UVB and UVC rays. I love that this sunscreen has neem because sunscreens can often clog the skin and lead to breakouts, but neem is known to combat acne.  In addition, some research has shown that neem may even have anti-cancer properties. Rose is anti-inflammatory and excellent for wrinkles. I found that I could use this as a daily moisturizer and sunscreen in one. My skin is sensitive and I had only positive results – no sunburn, no irritation, no breakouts!

  • The Cucumber Aqua Gel — This the perfect after-sun soother with two of nature’s most cooling and calming ingreients – aloe and cucumber. I really love this gel for anytime of year. I use it as a nighttime treatment to soothe my sensitive skin and reduce any puffiness under my eyes. The scent is light and fresh (mainly cucumber-ish). Store in the refrigerator for even more of a cooling effect!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer so far!

Happy 4th of July!

Talk about a gorgeous piece of America — here are a few pics of my 1st trip to Montana and Wyoming last week.

Wow, just wow. I can’t wait to go back.

Gallatin National Forest, Bozeman, Montana

Hyalite Creek Trail, Gallatin National Forest

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Excelsior Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

Bradley Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Hope everyone has a great Independence Day!

Sweet Potato Breakfast Smoothie

I recently saw Tracy Anderson on the Dr. Oz show and she was talking about this delicious-sounding smoothie recipe that Gwyneth Paltrow helped her to create. With a couple of small tweaks and no microwave involved, I’m happy to say that this smoothie turned out to be the most decadent yet healthy smoothie I have tasted to date.

Photo Credit: AllNaturalAnnie.com

Ingredients (makes 2 servings):

  • 2 peeled sweet potatoes boiled or baked
  • 2 cups organic whole milk or unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 packet/scoop vanilla protein powder (I used Garden of Life’s Vanilla Chai Protein Powder. I’m not a big proponent of protein powders in general, but this one is a raw, vegan, organic protein made from over a dozen sprouted seeds and grains – so it’s actually real food and very high quality)
  • handful of walnuts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric

It turned out like a pudding! I really liked it that way, but if you don’t want it as thick, simply add more milk. This smoothie is loaded with vitamin A, protein, and healthy fat. It also has the added bonuses of being anti-inflammatory (turmeric) and blood sugar stabilizing (cinnamon). I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Alegna Soap

What is it: Classic bar soaps that are handmade in small batches. Alegna bar soaps are available in four naturally fragrant scents: Peppermint, Lavender Lemongrass, Lavender and Honey Oatmeal.

What it’s good for: Unlike a lot of conventional bar soaps, Alegna’s are nourishing, not drying, and a great choice for sensitive skin.

Photo Credit: Alegna Soap

Key natural ingredients: Organic olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, and essential oils. Some of the soaps also have added botanicals like calendula and lavender.

Where to buy itOrder Online

How much: $6

My favorite perk: Angela, the founder and creator of Alegna Soap, is a New York State licensed Medical Technologist turned bath and beauty product maker. I love when a lady (or man) turns a passionate hobby into a beautiful business idea. Angela’s products are clearly a labor of love and you sense that every time you use them!

Best Natural Men’s Products

I have been meaning to this post for a LONG time — some of my favorite beautifying products for the male sector. As I created this list, I intentionally kept price points down and quality and performance high. Here are some of my favorite picks in the following categories:

(1) DEODORANT

deo-citrus

{Every Man Jack Deodorant in Citrus – around $6}

Cotton extract and witch hazel absorb wetness while the fresh scents of mandarin orange and lemon last all day.

(2) SHAVING CREAM

city_rythms_shave_cream

{Aubrey Men’s Stock City Rhythms Shave Cream – around $7}

This shave cream has organic avocado oil and wheat germ oil for a really smooth shave. Cedarwood, sandalwood and bergamot combine for a woodsy and refreshing scent. Camphor, menthol and organic eucalyptus add to the fresh scent and also provide an actual cooling affect on skin.

(3) AFTER SHAVE

AfterShave

{Herban Cowboy Dusk Soothing Carrot and Cucumber After Shave Balm – around $6.99}

This is actually my go-to product for razor burn. Relief is pretty much instantaneous.  The scent is sweet and earthy.

(4) SHAMPOO

AO Shampoo

{Avalon Organics Thickening Shampoo – around $10.99}

Is there anyone on the planet that doesn’t want stronger, healthier hair? This shampoo has the perfect ingredients (biotin, saw palmetto, wheat protein and vitamin E) for a healthy scalp and thicker locks.

(5) HAIR POMADE

{Brooklyn Grooming Vegan Fort Greene Hair Pomade – $26}

With a pure and simple mixture of shea butter and a few ultra nourishing oils, a small dab of this pomade goes a long way to style and moisturize hair. The mixture of rosemary, bergamot and lavender oils smell delightful and are also very nourishing to the scalp.

(6) CHAPSTICK

lipcalm

{john masters organics lip calm – around $6.00}

This lip balm contains rosemary, gingko biloba and rich African shea butter for a trusted remedy for the driest of lips. The taste and scent is reminiscent of creamsicle in a good, not overpowering way.

(7) FOOT SPRAY

{HoS by Branch + Vine Cleansing Calm Foot Spray – $9.00}

I created this foot spray for House of Steep‘s line. It actually discourages and decreases foot odor. It also relaxes sore and tired feet with a mix of therapeutic essential oils.

I have to admit that part of my judging criteria is whether or not I find myself stealing these products from my husband… I can testify that these all get stolen regularly. I had him weigh in as I created this list and he concurs with my picks. Thank you Dylan for always being my guinea pig :)

You can find all (or at least most) at your local Whole Foods or your local health food store. This list could go on and on so just let me know if you would like any other recommendations!