An Uncomplicated Life Blog: January 2020

Thursday, January 30, 2020

3 Steps You Can Take TODAY To Live A Less Toxic Life

There's an overwhelming amount of information out there on living a"more natural" lifestyle that it's hard to sift though and comprehend it all. Here are 3 steps that have have a major impact on a healthier, less toxic life

There's so much information out there about what to eat, what to wear, what products to buy and not buy, how to compost, where to shop, and on and on that it's really easy to throw your hands up and just say, "forget it, I'm eating what I want and buying what's on sale at the cheapest or most convenient store!" Many times I'll see a friend post about new research on a food or a restaurant as a whole, and a common comment is, "Well, everything is going to give me cancer so I might as well enjoy life!" I get it. Starting on the journey of living a more natural, less toxic, more healthy and more connected/present/intentional life is daunting. Not only that, if you switch everything out at once, it's insanely expensive! I've broken down 3 steps you can take TODAY to live a less toxic life to enable making the change more manageable. *Affiliate links used*

1) Switch to a natural deodorant
Here's the thing about deodorant that makes it so important: you're applying them daily, you're applying them after you shave, and you're applying them directly over the lymph nodes near your breasts. So all the chemicals in traditional deodorants are going directly and immediately not just "to your system" but they're getting direct access to your lymph nodes. That's, ummmm, a HUGE problem. Breast cancer, fertility issues, autoimmune diseases, unexplained weight gain can all be attributed to using conventional deodorants daily.

Natural deodorants have a bad rep for not working. And here's what I've learned about them - you've got to find one that works for YOU. I've tried about 20 or so natural deodorants and have found two that work with my body's specific pH that don't cause irritation on my sensitive skin. Schmidt's Sensitive and Native work amazingly (even after several days of not showering!) but my skin would get an irritation rash from Native and I'd get ingrown hairs from Schmidt's. I now alternate between Pit Liquor and Nfuse Natural Deodorant and I also spray/roll them on when I wake up and before bed. Both of those brands have worked wonders for me, even in the Texas heat. I sweat, but I'm supposed to sweat, and it's not stinky. I've found that alternating them works best. Why? Dunno, I'm not a chemist, but I think it's akin to how when you switch up your shampoos, your hair is extra shiny and soft. I might be making that up, so don't quote me on it. If you're like me and can't use Schmidt's or Native, I'd highly suggest alternating those brands!

And, um, y'all this step is SO easy. Even my conservative, financial services working husband switched to Schmidt's and loves it. Fear not! The brands I linked WORK. 

2) Swap out your all-purpose cleaner
What you use to clean your counter tops and table tops matters because odds are, food touches it before it goes into your mouth. Would you swallow 409? Would you let your kids take a sip out of a Clorox bottle? No? Then why you're wiping your counter tops and tables down with it makes no sense either. I know I've prepared a sandwich for my kids directly on my counter before, or buttered toast, or set an apple there before it goes into one of my kids' mouths. They also have put food directly on the kitchen table before (Henry has a real thing with food touching and sometimes places his food on the table to be separate from other foods.) 

Now if you're trying to kill a stomach bug or the flu is running through your house, I get it - Lysol those door handles and light switches, and thoroughly wash your hands after! But your everyday cleaner that regularly gets minimally ingested because you're cleaning food prep/consumption areas? Switch it. I'm on the wait list for this product and will be stocking up as soon as it launches (and still have some Thieves cleaner remaining in the meantime). You can also mix up white vinegar, lemon essential oil and distilled water in a glass container and use that to wipe down your surfaces.
  • boost this step! Speaking of cleaners that you're exposed to nonstop, switch to an all natural, fragrance free laundry detergent (we use this brand but fragrance free and I could only find lavender online). The smell of "fresh clean clothes" isn't so fresh when you realize those are harmful chemicals touching your skin hour after hour, day after day. Don't even get me started on the dangers of "pod" type detergent. I have four kids age 5 and under, so I'm not remotely stupid enough to keep those in my home.
Want your laundry to still smell good even though you're using a fragrance free detergent? I use Purify essential oil on my workout clothes and lavender on my regular clothes. Add a few drops in the detergent dispenser and you've got great smelling clothes!

3) STOP eating fast food
Most fast food chains serve highly processed (read: chemically preserved and served in a state that's far removed from it's original source) foods. Aside from also being mostly fried, making them high in fat and calories, fast food is so chemical laden that it's not even real food any more. Food exists and should be consumed to NOURISH your body. It gives you vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and carbohydrates to energize and sustain you. You don't need - and in fact your body doesn't even have the ability to process - all the preservatives and chemicals found in fast food. Be mindful of what you put on your body, but also be aware of what you put IN it!
  • boost this step! Avoiding fast food lines is a great first step, but you can take it to the next level by consuming organic, local and free range food options. Buy local crops via a harvest co-op (google that term plus your location to find one), find out which local restaurants serve organic options for when you're out and about and hungry and best case scenario, look into planting your own produce. I have a few posts on how we do that in our small, urban yard!

It is absolutely overwhelming to read all the information out there on "living naturally", what products are good, which are bad, what sources are legit and which are all hype or someone trying to sell you their product. It's been fun for me to watch living more naturally become a "movement" that has gained major traction in recent years, but I'm also aware that movements cause misinformation. It's much easier to break living a less toxic life down into several steps. Should you throw out all your makeup, buy a complete new cleaning set, new personal care products, change your eating, and medicine consuming habits? Yeah, if you can do all that, all the better! But change comes in steps, not just one massive overhaul. These are 3 steps you can take TODAY to live a less toxic life. They're easy to do and affordable. Jump start a healthier life by taking them today. If you've got these down, take the boosted steps I suggested. Cheers to a healthier 2020!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Planting An Indoor Herb Garden

Enjoy fresh herbs year round with your own herb garden! Here's how to plant one that works for you

Even though I live where it's *mostly* warm year round, some herbs are more delicate than others and require indoor growth. I have rosemary and sage outside, and despite any level my neglect, they don't die - even when we have a week straight of 25 degree days here, they pull through! Basil, parsley and any other "leafy" herb, on the other hand, dies both when we get our first frost and when we have nonstop 100+ degree days in July and August. The good news is that you don't need to grow these plants outdoors to be able to enjoy them. They easily grow in small pots that you can keep in your kitchen. If you've got a windowsill with decent light, no matter your location, you can grow your own fresh herbs to enjoy during the winter months. Here's how to plant an indoor herb garden.

First, you'll want to take stock of what you use the most. What flavors do you normally cook? What dried herbs are your go to? Dried herbs work well in some dishes, but when you start cooking regularly with fresh, you never want to go back! If you're questioning what you should plant, look up your top 5 or 10 favorite recipes and what those call for. That's a great place to start. If you just randomly plant some herbs, odds are good you won't use them, you'll forget to water them or they'll just start to over-grow the containers and become a general mess. Plant the herbs you'll actually use!

For me, I regularly use fresh basil and parsley (the basil goes amazingly in this bolognese sauce recipe and the fresh parsley is key for the sauce of this Greek chicken burger recipe - both are favorites in my house!). I also realized that I was buying a lot of green onions/scallions from the store, so I wanted to get some of those. They're great for pasta salads, green salads, quinoa dishes or anything where a raw onion would be too strong but you want a hint of fresh onion flavor. I also got some thyme. Usually, this stays well in my herb garden outside, but for whatever reason its completely died in my outdoor herb garden, so I'm bringing it indoors to keep a closer eye on it. Fresh thyme is SO much better than dried and it's pretty easy to grow. Once you try it fresh, you won't want to even look at dried again.

After selecting your herbs, you've got to buy them. Most nurseries, whether they be chains or independently owned, sell herbs year round. We have a local nursery that I prefer to shop at and they were fully stocked with just about everything, already sprouted and ready to plant. (That'd be Calloway's Nursery, if you're in Dallas and are wondering.) You'll need some small pots to plant them in. There's two lines of thought for indoor plants: 1) you want the pot to have holes in the bottom to let out excess water. If you get this type, make sure there's a plate of some sort under it so that you don't water your counter, windowsill, etc! The other line of thought is to get a tall, more slender pot and to ration the watering with a spray bottle. This way the plant is kept hydrated in a pot that's designed to keep any excess water away from it's roots. You keep a spray bottle near it, and spray it every so often - either at prescribed times during the day or more random, like every time you walk by. The benefit to this method is that the humidity is more like what it'd be like if it were growing outdoors or in a greenhouse. Winter air is especially dry, even more so if you live in a climate that requires heat to be on regularly. If you live where it's really cold, I'd suggest doing this!

I chose that method because my kids can help me more easily with a spray bottle. Also, for where I'm storing the herbs, a plate underneath to catch runoff water wasn't feasible. I say do what works for you, your space, your lifestyle and your climate.

While you're at the nursery, pick up some soil. You won't use the whole bag, but that's ok - you can store it in your garage, basement, balcony or elsewhere until you're ready to do more spring/outdoor planting. I'm not a fan of chemical fertilizer, and I don't want the manure smell in my home so I skipped that. If you keep a compost you could bring some in to add it to your plants. If you're not opposed to chemical fertilizers, you could get some Miracle Grow. I knew these plants would be a 2-3 month investment, so a fertilizer wouldn't be necessary anyway. Right as the organic soil I planted them in needed a boost, we'd transition to all outdoor plants again. Pro tip: potting plants is messy, so if you live where it's too cold to do it outside, lay a tarp/newspapers/a piece of plastic down or you'll be grinding dirt into your floors!

After they're planted, they're pretty easy to maintain. Just water once a day, or spray with a spray bottle a few times a day. Keep them where you have great natural light. Most kitchens have a window above their sink. Sadly, my kitchen is not one of those! I have three floor to ceiling windows in my actual kitchen, which is lovely - but the fact that they go to about 6" above the floor means that my 15 mo old twins can access them. I also have plantation shutters on them, so that makes setting plants in the windowsills difficult.

What I decided to do was a tad high maintenance (but I love to cook, so I was cool with it) I move the plants in at night, and put them in the sunlight in our outdoor courtyard during the day. It's actually not much trouble - my kids are in and out all day, our days are nice and warm, and even if I almost forget at night, my dog has to go out before bed and I usually notice them. Even if I don't, it's a rare day that it gets to freezing here so if I totally space on it, it's not catastrophic. But I'm in the deep South. If you're mid South, you'll want to make sure you bring your plants in at night! Or, hopefully you have a kitchen with a windowsill that has light and can hold your plants.

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Planting and growing your own herb garden is not only easy, it's fun! If you enjoy cooking with fresh herbs year 'round, it's definitely a great way to have access to them. Have you ever bought fresh herbs at the grocery store? Not only are they expensive, they're always wilted! And many times, the store won't have exactly what I'm looking for. Skip the middle man grocery store and grow your own! Adding some greenery to your home in the dead of winter is a fun way to spruce it up, too. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Currently, January Edition

What's going down around here, currently

When it rains, it pours right?! Always. I have a bunch of cool posts that are 90% finished, but if you follow me on the 'Gram, you know that Teddy was in the hospital for a weird virus that caused him to be unable to breathe. Check out this post for the details if you missed it. Of course, that happened over MLK day, so all the kids were out of school, and hubby and I had to divide and conquer to get everyone taken care of. Does anyone else's school have TWO days off for MLK? Because we do. That was rough, on many levels! Anywhoo, I've had exactly zero minutes to finish those awesome posts, so here I am, scrambling on a Wednesday to get one out. I thought it'd be appropriate for just a good ol' fashioned life update! Here's what's going on, currently:

Teddy's health status:
He was in super rough shape for 24 hrs but turned a massive corner after a full day and night in the hospital, with the highest level oxygen they'd give an infant outside of the ICU and hourly to every-other-hour breathing treatments. He was negative for flu, negative for RSV, and the virus that caused this remains unidentified. After nearly three days in the hospital, he was able to come home to us! I was so thankful that my husband brought him into the ER when he did... I'm anti-ER trips. Since we have a nebulizer, my stance was to give him breathing treatments hourly until his pedi opened up (they open at 7am, so it would have been about a three hour wait) but he insisted that he should go in. I rolled my eyes and said, "go for it then" and stayed home with our other three kids. He showed improvement from our nebulizer and his lips or fingers weren't turning blue, so I didn't think it was a *true* emergency. Welp, I was wrong and he was right.

Look at that teething slobber! Also, the twins' eye color is insane - they change from green to grey to gold to blue daily

I can't help but think about what would have happened if I'd have been home alone with all four kids and this would have happened... Would I have called 911? Would I have woken up all the other kids, put them in the car and exposed them to all the germs at the ER? No, I wouldn't have. I'd have used our nebulizer and waited until morning. So while all of this was inconvenient timing, I'm SO SO SO thankful it happened during the first week that my husband was actually home in January! With four kids, you've got to divide and conquer to get everyone taken care of. If I was solo, I'm not quite sure how I'd have divided myself. It was a true blessing that this happened when both mommy and daddy were home and able to care for everyone!

A final note about Teddy's hospitalization: I was absolutely FLOORED at the generosity of my Dallas friends. Nearly immediately, I had friends coming over to help me with Henry and Otto, bringing me meals and calling/texting/messaging me if there was anything they could do. Here's something valuable I learned - if a good friend of yours gets into a stressful situation (kid in the hospital, sudden or random divorce/separation, deceased parent or some other tragic event), claim your space. The best things that happened were friends who were like, "I'm coming to take your other kids on a play date, be there in an hour!" or "I'm stopping by with supper for tonight! Any requests or food allergies?" When people asked if they could do anything, I wasn't sure what to say. But when people simply told me what they were doing, I was SO relieved - it was one less thing I had to do. Be that friend. Don't ask - just start doing. And to all the followers who reached out or commented on my post, with positive thoughts or prayers, THANK YOU. Teddy showed no improvement until all those started to pile in. I read every one of them, even if I didn't respond (still trying to catch up!) but felt so loved and supported and lifted up in prayer from y'all. You're truly the best people on the planet. Thanks for making a personality you know on the internet feel loved!

He was 7 or 8 months old here. What a little pumpkin!

Ok, on to lighter and brighter things that are going on this month!

My new skincare routine:
I'm not big on telling people to buy things - there's definitely enough materialism in the world. A few months ago, I crowd-sourced what skincare systems people loved. I got AMAZING responses, all of the brands mentioned were brands I'd be interested in. I went with K'pure Naturals because I loved that there were minimal ingredients, that I could actually pronounce and were all natural (think coconut oil, vitamin E, etc) and it was a four step system, so it included a face wash, toner, serum and moisturizer. It's also cusomizable, so whatever your skin needs are - acne, anti-aging, combo skin) you can change the products to reflect your needs. At checkout, I realized another bonus! It's a small company based in Vancouver, so the prices listed are in Canadian dollars! Currently, if you're in the US, that's a benefit to you. My total price with shipping was $102 for the four step program. But because of the exchange rate, it was only $83 US dollars! That was an unexpected *bonus* 25ish% off. If you're on the hunt for a natural skincare line that is natural, that uses glass over plastic, that you can pronounce everything in it - this is your brand! I cannot speak highly enough of it.

I highly recommend using their skincare line with this rose quartz roller too - it helps the toner and serum set in and feels GREAT, not to mention promotes circulation and the cool stone helps de-puff your face/minimize eye bags. It's on sale for $16 (HALF OFF) and there's an Amazon 5% off coupon to apply too! Yay sales. Def worth the money!

My thoughts on cleanses:
If you checked out this post, you'll know that I did my first juice cleanse ever. Well, not only that, but my first cleanse ever! I generally don't believe in diet gimmicks, and I definitely don't think it's a means for weight loss, but holy heck did I feel and sleep better when I did it and after! In fact, I plan on doing this cleanse every quarter. Next one will be after my trip to New Mexico to visit Jaelan from Making Mrs M at the end of March (I cannot WAIT to see you, my love!)

The BEST diapers we've found:
With Henry and Otto, we only had about 12 months of crossover of two being in diapers, and they weren't the same size at the same time, so both got organic cotton, fragrance free diapers (we used this brand with Henry and this brand with Otto). Having twins is diapers is another story! It's expensive. You burn through your whole stash quickly. I've found that the Kirkland diapers, which are chemical softener and fragrance free, are about the best diapers we've ever used. In fact, I wish I'd have discovered them for the older two, because we used to spend $240/mo on diapers and now, even with twins in diapers, we spend $35. A MONTH. Because you get 180 diapers (full disclosure, that lasts us about weeks so not quite a month) but the cost savings and the quality are so amazing, I just had to share! We've been wholesale club members at several places for years, but just really started using our Costco membership. If you have a large family and like organic products, I highly recommend them, both the diapers and everything else Costco offers. I'm sure soon I'll transition most of my weekly grocery shopping there - especially when the kids hit puberty and REALLY start eating (we already go through several loaves of bread, several gallons of milk and about 40 eggs A WEEK. Good grief, I can't imagine what life will be like when they're teens - and then they bring their friends over! Sweet goodness, we'll have to take out a second mortgage on our home just to feed them!)

Great reads:
I'm currently reading The German Girl, and don't love it. It's very repetitive and a rather distressing story, although I'm only 50 pages in. I'm hoping I get more into the story and it becomes less of a buzzkill. Two reads that I really enjoyed, though, were In A Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman In The Window. In fact, I finished The Woman in the Window in about 3 days, which when you don't have lots of spare or leisurely time (hello, four children) is fairly impressive! Both are thrillers and both are page turners for sure. If you're looking for more great titles, check out this post I wrote and stay tuned; I'm going to do a short list of my most current favorite reads soon! I shared how watching less TV and being on my phone less were goals of mine for better mental health in 2020, and so far I'm sticking to it! I only watch Hometown (I love them as a couple, don't you?) and Vanderpump Rules, because I just can't quit my trashy TV. I'm also in awe that most of the cast is my age or even older (Jax is the same age as my husband! I mean, how do you still act like that?!)

That's what's going down around here lately. I'm feeling good about sticking to my 2020 goals, but - it is still January. I'm looking forward to a healthier February. I hope. And I really, really just want spring to get here. After Christmas I'm like oooookkkkkk we can return to warm weather and long, bright days please! I know I'm not the only one. I'll check y'all next week with all that great content I have lined up, including how to have an indoor herb garden in the winter, a fitness update and some thoughts I have on "gender inclusive" parenting. It's gonna be good!

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Value Of Saying Thank You and I'm Sorry

It's common courtesy to say thank you, and we all know we should apologize when we're wrong - but are you using these two phrases enough?

I'm going to get real with y'all - this post isn't exactly a friendly PSA. This post comes from a place of frustration. I've recently been reminded just how important saying "thank you" is, and it also reminded me that coming out and saying "I'm sorry" is just as important. We all have people who do kind things for us, be it as small as holding a door open or as large as donating a large sum of money to a cause or donating a large chunk of time to help them with a cause that's near and dear to their heart. Saying sorry is equally as important; you've got to admit when you made a mistake and tell the people affected that you know you made that mistake and are sorry for it. But it seems like in today's day and age, people are really reluctant to say either of these things. In fact, I'm currently upset with someone because she has consistently NOT said either to me. I'm going to write about it in hopes that it encourages you to say one or both to whomever might need to hear it from you.

Keeping the details to a minimum to protect identity, let me share what's driving me so batty about this whole "thank you" business, or rather - the lack thereof. There's a person who is in the position to need not just a whole bunch of *my* stuff, but very specifically, stuff I already own and no longer have a use for. Not heavily used, worn or things in a crummy condition. Things that would still be insanely expensive to buy secondhand. Things that I owned and were in like-new condition. It wasn't just one thing or a one time donation to this person - it was a trickle of things over several months. Multiple installments of a wide variety of things. And not once did I ever get a thank you. Not. Once.

At first I didn't notice it. I think because part of me was just kind of relieved to get some of this stuff out of my home, and I was happy to help out. But then something weird happened; this person straight up demanded that I give her some things I was still using, because their situation was changing faster than anticipated. That's when I noticed the rudeness. The entitlement. And most importantly, the outright lack of a single thank you. We're talking THOUSANDS of dollars of stuff, all given for free. And not one damned thank you!

One day, a mutual friend sent me a text and asked me what was going on with the whole thing, and it was reassuring to know that it wasn't all in my head. The behavior of the one party was out of line and tacky, and other people were noticing as much as I was. That conversation got me thinking beyond the value of a thank you, and onto the larger scale of saying "I'm sorry" too. Both are equally important, and both things should be said every day. Yes, every single day.

That stupid book, "Girl, Stop Apologizing"? Sure, you don't need to apologize for yourself or the space you take up, but you absolutely should apologize for your behavior. When you do wrong, you say "I'm sorry" as you admit to your mistakes and the people you wronged.

My marriage isn't perfect, but one thing we both do really well is apologize to each other. It might be right away, it might be later that same day or even the next morning, but I'd say both my husband and myself are excellent apologizers. And a simple "I'm sorry" goes a long, long way - in a marriage, with a family member, in a friendship and perhaps most importantly of all, to your children.

I know I don't parent perfectly. Sometimes I yell way too loud or way too hard. Sometimes my punishments are too harsh. Sometimes I over-react. And in those moments, or shortly after them, I make sure to apologize to my kids. Whatever I'm doing I will stop, kneel down to my kids' level, look them in the eye and tell them I'm sorry for what I did, that I made a mistake and that I love them. I don't even ask for their forgiveness, but guess what? Me compassionately saying I'm sorry nearly always solicits a "That's ok mommy, I forgive you and I love you too!" back from them. And then we all move on and get back to playing.

You know what else? My kids also know how to say thank you. Server brings them a meal? I help them get their shoes on? They get a gift? Yup, from small to big things in life, my kids know the value of saying thank you. And they're learning the value of a sincere apology.

I'm not sure when, where or why it seems like the social grace of saying thank you and I'm sorry fell off the cliff. I don't understand why it's a hard thing to say. Not only does it humble you, but when you humble yourself first, it makes people like you more, want to help/give you more and think more highly of you. There's a tremendous value in saying thank you and I'm sorry. Make it a point to say both of these things everyday and watch your relationships vastly improve. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The 10 Best Essential Oils For Under $10

High quality oils don't have to be expensive! These are the best Revive essential oils for under $10

The biggest myth I believed about essential oils for wayyyyy too long was that they had to be expensive to be great. The multi-level-marketing companies tell you that to justify the prices they charge you, but it's just that - a myth. When I found Revive essential oils, I found that quality (you can read all their GC/MS reports online, unlike Young Living or doTerra) with a price tag that didn't make me choke, balk or my husband roll his eyes. Yes, you can ingest them. Yes, they're legit. Yes, you'll save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. If you've never tried oils, you're sick of the high MLM price tags or you're simply skeptical they work, I've crafted a list of the best essential oils for under $10, and provided ways on how to use them in your life everyday.


Tea Tree:
Easily, this is one of the oils I use the most. I use it on my face for breakouts, I use it to purify the air if there's a sickness in our home, I use it on cuts to keep infection at bay and I put it on the nozzle of my saline spray that I use up my nose every morning to help keep sinus infections away. Those are just a few of this oil's use - there are many more! I always have at least three bottles on hand, and actually have them stationed around my home for easy access. I use it that much!

This is the other contender for my most used oil. It's called the jack of all trades, because you can literally use lavender on or for just about anything! I use it on my skin to calm puffiness. I put several drops on my pillowcase at night to help me sleep better. I use it in my DIY bug spray that REALLY works, in my DIY acne face wash and in this allergy relief roller. It's amazing topically or in your diffuser. It blends extremely well with other oils for combined use or diffuser blends and it's gentle enough to use on a newborn. 

Another amazing, multi use oil (and definitely one that's in my top 5 most used - I always get the 30ml bottle and go through it within a month or two!) It's another one in my allergy relief roller. It's in my facial toner. It's notoriously exceptional at cleaning - add a few drops to hot water and vinegar and boom, you've got a great surface cleaner. I use it in my fridge freshener too. I diffuse it with Immunity Boost when I want to kill germs and bugs when all the kids have coughs and green snot pouring down their little faces. It's great for energy if you're dragging and when I was pregnant, I'd keep a bottle in my purse and smell it when bouts of nausea would hit. Something about the fresh, clean scent really helped lessen my prenatal nausea! A definite staple in any oil collection, and priced per ml's, one of the best deals too.

Lemon, Lavender and Immunity Boost are some of the oils I get the 30ml bottle of, because I use them so much

Sweet Orange:
This is one of my all time favorite smells! There's no way you can smell this oil and not be happy. It's an immediate mood booster. I love to use sweet orange and patchouli in my diffusers in the morning to set the tone for the day. It's also known to help whiten teeth, so if you add a drop to your toothpaste before brushing, it's a smile brightener. 

One of the best ways to use grapefruit is as a water flavor-er. Did I just make up a word? Probably! I like to add one to two drops to my water container. It freshens it up, and grapefruit is known for promoting weight loss/water balance in the body (ie - a de-bloater). Like most all citrus fruits, it's an excellent cleaner, and I used grapefruit in this DIY garbage disposal cleaner (ever have a stinky sink? Yeah, these are just what you need to clear that out!)

Now hear me out on this one, because I know this is an "acquired taste" oil. Well, not so much the taste, but the smell. When I started with oils, I hated this smell! I just thought, dirty hippy... Now I absolutely love it. It's a grounding oil, and pairs wonderfully with lavender and sweet orange in your diffuser. It's great for your skin, so paired with frankincense and lavender in your skincare routine is a great way to go. It's also a meditative oil, so if you're looking for calming, grounding and finding intention while you meditate, this is a great one for the price, as most other oils in that category go for $25-$80. Definitely the best grounding oil that's budget friendly.

This one goes on the top 5 list with lavender, tea tree,  and lemon (the 5th oil is Immunity Boost but that one is $14 so I can't put it on this list!) My favorite diffuser blend of ALL TIME is rosemary, peppermint and lemon. I diffuse that before we have people over and I'm regularly told my home smells like a spa. It's in my DIY bug spray. It works wonders applied at the temples and the nape of the neck for headache relief. If you have a stomach ache, add a drop to either hot tea or cold water and feel the relief. It's a wonderful oil for the summer months, as it's very cooling. Put a drop under your tongue for better smelling breath. Yup, this one is another staple in my home with all it's amazing uses.

This is the other affordable grounding oil. But the great new is that beyond grounding, it promotes hair growth. Just have a baby and are in that horrible postpartum hair fall out situation? Add some cedarwood to your shampoo. Want longer lashes? Add some cedarwood to your mascara. Hubby starting to go bald? Add some cedarwood to his hair routine. In fact, I have a whole post on hair care, so if you're looking for other hair-growth-promoting ideas, check it out! It's also a promoter of sleep. I have it on my nightstand and add a few drops to my pillowcase, along with lavender. Outside of hair growth and sleep, if sandalwood isn't in your budget, cedarwood is a great replacement that's budget friendly!

I got this oil in my Young Living starter kit, and didn't touch it for two years because I had no idea what to do with it, and it didn't smell good so I never added it to my diffuser. I learned via some oily mom groups that dilluting it (with coconut or a vegetable oil) and applying it to the gums of infants helps with teething. I later learned that it's like a "magnifier" for other oils, meaning if you use a drop of it with, say, lavender, it makes the effects of lavender stronger. If you want to super-charge your oils, add a drop or two of this with your desired oil.

Stuffy nose? Congestion in your chest? Simply want to bring in some "fresh air" to your home? This is a great oil for all of that! If you've ever walked around Northern California and smelled how refreshing that air is, you know the smell of eucalyptus. This oil works wonders for winter colds and congestion, and is a cooling oil so it's great in your diffuser in the summer. FYI - because I know someone will email me about this - this oil is NOT safe for cats, especially if your cat climbs on counters where diffusers are and drink the water/breathe the air directly coming out of it.  

Great quality essential oils DO NOT HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE! There is absolutely no need to spend over $100 to get your oil collection started - or even maintained. All of these oils are staples in my collection and all are under $10, which means you could buy all 10 and not spend $100! Plus, Revive has free shipping. Don't like the oils? That's cool too, you can return them. If you've never tried oils or are skeptical about them, I highly suggest starting with a few of these inexpensive oils and simply play around with them - diffuse them or use them as suggested under each oil. Just switching out your scented candles for diffused oils will make a difference in your home.

Monday, January 13, 2020

I Tried A Juice Cleanse. Here's What Happened

Juice cleansing: what it does, who should do it and why it's NOT a diet or weight loss mechanism 

Last week, I did my very first juice cleanse. I read up a lot on "cleansing" before I did it. I think the most common misconception is that people do it for weight loss, or it's a "diet technique." I had absolutely no intentions of using a juice cleanse to lose weight. Rather, I had a very indulgent holiday season and was looking for a way to help my liver rid my body of excess toxins. Kind of like helping my body hit the reset button, if you will. So I tried a juice cleanse. Here's what happened, from what I thought, what I felt, how I altered it a little, and the end results.

Like I said, my goal was to help my liver detox my body. Over the holidays, I didn't hold back and consumed far too much wine, cheese and refined carbs. We attended a good number of holiday parties this year, and I went for it. At each party. See, while I was breastfeeding twins, my body could easily handle the additional calories because I was burning so much from just making milk for two tiny humans. But I fully weaned the twins in November, and since then my metabolism has slowed wayyyyy down... Which is fine, that's what it should do! But I continued to eat like a trucker. January first rolled around and I was just grossed out with myself! I felt sluggish, I was tired, and I knew I needed something to kick start a healthier lifestyle. My liver needed some help processing all the alcohol and refined foods I had consumed.

Dandelion root, milk thistle and turmeric are all herbs that help your liver do it's job, so when I was looking into what cleanse to do, I knew I wanted to find one that also had those ingredients in it. I found this cleanse from Amazon, and really liked how I could adapt it to me and my goals - I didn't have to commit to a long time period (some cleanses are five days long! No thanks) and I liked how there was a schedule to follow: every two hours, you were making a different juice. That way, you were well hydrated and changing up what flavor you were drinking to keep it interesting. It seemed like a great fit for me, so I went ahead and got the two day cleanse because I wasn't sure if I could handle three full days of juice.

Day one started, and I learned from the first juice packet to stir as you add it to the water! My first juice was rather clumpy. But it tasted fine, which was a relief. I had barely finished the 16oz when it was already time to mix up my second juice. This one had greens in it, and while I mixed it correctly to not have any clumps, it definitely wasn't my favorite flavor! After my third juice of the day, I noticed I was getting a nasty headache. This could be because I didn't have my morning coffee, but I looked at the sodium in the juice and realized perhaps I was diluting my electrolytes too much (there's hardly any sodium in the cleanse). I decided to have a cup of chicken stock to add some sodium back in. This was a great decision, because it changed up the flavor dynamic and my headache lessened. I had another cup of stock after my fourth juice, too.

The way this cleanse is set up, you have a juice at 7am, and continue every two hours until your last juice at 7pm. I actually never ended up having my 7pm juice because I didn't want to have to pee all night, so I ended my day with the 5pm juice. Then I hit the sheets early so that I wouldn't be tempted to snack! I was surprised that when I did wake up in the night (I'm a light sleeper and wake often) I wasn't hungry. My stomach wasn't growling and I didn't crave any food. That was a total shock!

I knew I could easily do one day of cleansing, but I figured the struggle would come on day two. Except... there wasn't a struggle. I found it entirely easy to keep on the two hour schedule. Just like on the first day, I added in two cups of chicken stock. It was definitely nice to add that in. Having a "savory flavor break" was much needed.

I decided not to work out while cleansing, because I didn't want to do anything that would make me hungry. What I did end up doing was a Hatha yoga class that was purely an hour of deep stretching. That felt amazing, and I'd highly recommend adding that to your cleansing regimen! I felt like the breathing and deep tissue stretch assisted my body in detoxing. And yup, I brought a juice with me to the class and sipped as I stretched.

So how was only consuming juice and chicken stock for two days? I'm surprised to say, but it was so much easier than I thought it'd be! I wasn't hungry as long as I kept on the two hour schedule the cleanse outlines. I still cooked dinner for my kids, but had my husband sit with them while they ate so that I wouldn't be tempted to eat off their plates. I didn't wake up hungry in the night, and my stomach never got upset. The actual physical aspect of only consuming juice for two days was a breeze! I thought for sure I'd want to eat, or crave a glass of wine (I did the cleanse over the weekend, when I typically have wine) but I didn't miss any of it. The only craving I had was for a morning cup of coffee.

What were the outcome(s) of the cleanse? One of the biggest things I noticed immediately was how my sleep was greatly improved. I suffer from chronic insomnia, and I had two nights of some of the best sleep I've gotten in years while doing this cleanse. I'm also currently suffering from hormonal acne from weaning the twins, and my skin started to clear up. When I woke up the morning after the first day, I was surprised how much clearer it looked, and by the second day, my skin looked great! I lost a pound and a half, which I'm sure was just water weight and is already back (I don't own a scale - I only weigh myself occasionally at my gym). I did notice that once I started eating again, it took very little to get me full. It's like this juice cleanse re-set my portion control, which is exactly what I needed to get me back on track now that I'm not burning so many calories breastfeeding.

Who should do a juice cleanse? I think if you're looking for a system reset like I was, it's a great thing to do! Maybe you just had a vacation and need to help your liver detox your body, or perhaps you want to get into eating healthier and/or smaller portions of food. Maybe you recently learned of a dairy or gluten intolerance and want to help your body rid itself of those substances. A juice cleanse is a great starting point for all of those scenarios.

Get the juice cleanse here (and be sure to check the box to apply the coupon, too!)

Who shouldn't do a juice cleanse? If you're only looking for weight loss, this isn't for you. Since it's a one, two or three day affair, if you want true weight loss, you've got to alter your entire diet and add in exercise. Will you lose weight with a cleanse? Probably, but it's not sustainable. Juice cleansing strictly for weight loss is a bad idea, in my opinion. There are far more effective and long lasting ways to lose weight. 

Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY. In fact, I woke up on day three and wish I still had another day of cleansing left (weird, huh?) so I've already bought the three day for my next cleanse! I plan on doing this once a quarter, just to have a system reset. I slept so good and my skin looked great, so I think doing a cleanse four times a year is a great addition to living a healthier life, which was a goal of mine for 2020. If you're looking for a system reset, I'd highly recommend doing this cleanse - and yes, you CAN manage the full three days (but you'll also see benefits from the one or two day, too!)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Men's Professional Attire

With the ushering in of the new decade and the heavy focus on fitness and health, don't forget to update your wardrobe to stay fresh and current at work and for fun

This post is sponsored by Nelson's Bespoke. All opinions are my own.

It's January and we all know what that means; the gym is full of newbies, the diet industry is spending millions in attempts to lure you into the next big "life-changing" fad and the focus is on having "your best year yet" in terms of personal growth. All that is great, and I truly think the intentions behind it all are good, but that messaging can get a little... tiresome. This year, I've tried to concentrate on other ways to live a better, healthier and happier life in 2020. We all know we should exercise, eat better and sleep more but what about our clothes? One of my good friends, Charles of Nelson's Bespoke, who also happens to be a regular at the taco spot I eat lunch at several times a week, we chatting about business and marketing and all that fun stuff when we realized - HELLO! The January fitness narrative gets told every year, but what about ensuring you feel good in your clothes? What about, in addition to having a "new year, new you" in terms of physical health, you also evaluated your wardrobe to make sure it's current, fits not only your physical body but also your lifestyle, and makes you feel good? Shout out to my husband for being the model for Charles' and my's joint creative venture; some new, fresh takes on men's professional attire.

One of the many things I think my husband and I appreciate about each other is that we're built similarly: tall and slender. Which is great and everything - except when you're buying clothes. If we want the length, we usually have to go up to a size that's far too large for us in the waist or trunk. If we want that fitted, it's like we're wearing high-waters or unintentionally buying 3/4 sleeves. Therefore, we both understand that if we want clothes that fit, the best bet is to order them specifically for our body types. For me, that means I have to search out (mostly) designer jeans that are sold in the waist-per-inch by inseam-per inch sizing; for him, he needs to order his suits, shirts, and sports coats via a bespoke model.

Nelson's Bespoke is and experience, not just an opportunity to purchase clothes that make you look great and fit your lifestyle. Charles comes to your home or workplace to learn more about you and what your interests are; then he measures you to get a custom fit. After that's done, you can check out all the different options of fabrics, lining, buttons and whatever else might be an option for whatever you're getting made. What you end up with is not only a one-of-a-kind shirt, suit, pant or sports coat - you also get style advice and consulting, and you have a blast doing it because Charles is such a fun guy to talk to and work with!

Back in my dating days, I was with a guy who made a career change that required his attire to go from "business casual" to "business professional." The difference? Business casual means you can wear button-downs without a tie, polo shirts in the summer and khakis. Business professional means you've got to wear a tie with your button down, or a jacket, or both - especially if bosses or "higher ups" are going to be present. I remember we went to Bloomingdales and he spent a small fortune on off-the-rack suits. Which is fine - but all of them needed alterations, and he also needed the business professional clothes he did have altered to a more modern fit, too. After all was said and done, I believe he spent more in alterations than he did on the clothes themselves!

When we lived in Minneapolis, my husband wore a suit to work everyday. Every single one. He was always dressed up, because that's what people in his industry did in that part of the country. Upon moving to Texas, the range of dress varies FAR more. If he goes to a smaller town in west Texas, he'd get laughed out of a room wearing a suit. And we're talking about people with large amounts of oil money, so it's not a matter of economic status. It's a culture difference. It's also a climate difference - it's obviously far hotter here in the summer, so a year round wool suit just isn't practical. Which is unfortunate, because he has all custom-made suits that look fantastic on him... Many in a warm wool that will never be climate-appropriate here!

That meant he had to do some wardrobe restructuring upon our transfer to Texas. The wool suits got moved to the back of his closet. Lighter weight shirts, thinner pants and sports coats got bumped to the front. And in the summer, it's a lot of khakis and polo shirts. Since we've now been here for seven or eight years (my mind can't keep track after having four kids), it was time for another re-fresh, so this year I got him a custom sports coat to keep his wardrobe on track for the new decade.

First, Charles came to our home and discussed what kind of fit he preferred. He listened to my husband and also offered up some tips on where trends were heading so that he could get something current but classic. They picked out his fabric based on Texas weather, and then Charles got to measuring. Not just shoulders, arm length and girth, but some real custom measurements! Then they talked about what kind of a lining would look good given the pattern of the jacket selected, and Charles recommended a bold button to tie it all together. After about 5 to 6 weeks, he dropped the jacket off at our home and I must say, the end result was rather dashing. My husband is always attractive, but he really shines when he's professionally dressed - it's when his outward appearance matches his personality and the whole package makes sense together.

To kick start your new year, new you, Nelson's Bespoke is offering a deal on shirts! Buy 3, get one free. He's also offering a deal on suits - any suit bought in January or February is marked down to $815 (down from $1100)! Visit and schedule your consultation! You can also find Charles on Instagram and Facebook.

We've completed the first year of the new decade. While you're busy making goals and resolutions, make sure you don't forget your wardrobe! Men's professional attire can be a tricky thing to get just right, because while the classics stay the same, the tailoring and details (like buttons and patterns) change. Some of the best advice I've gotten when I worked in corporate America was "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." Well, I was a director level by the time I was barely 28, and I ALWAYS dressed up! Make sure you're ready to land all your professional goals. Give Nelson's Bespoke a call.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Ways To Have A Healthier 2020

It's not just diet and exercise, there are tons of easy ways to live a healthier life in 2020. Here's what I'm doing to be my best self this year

I think when people hear "living a healthier life", they always assume that means diet and exercise. And while that's certainly a part of it, I'm loving seeing the narrative shift to include mental and emotional health too. Sure, being in shape is great. Yes, eating well is absolutely essential to feeling great, and looking great too. But I'm also just as focused on emotional and mental health this year, and am finding others are too. If you're not mentally well, if effects your whole being, and you'll quickly learn that the physical aspects (as well as your emotional eating!) veer off course. These are all the ways I'm going to have a healthier 2020!

Emotional health:
- Give myself grace: I no longer expect myself to be perfect, but I do have high expectations of myself. Am I bummed when a dinner doesn't turn out as great as I want it to? Yes. Do I want to be the mom who doesn't yell, who's totally supportive, who jumps up with enthusiasm when one of her kids needs her? Yes, I wish all those things. And sometimes dinner is amazing and sometimes I'm exactly the mom my kids need me to be. And sometimes I'm not. And that's ok! I think one of the biggest lessons in parenting is learning to recognize your mistakes, apologize for them (literally, telling your kids that you're sorry for whatever it was you realize was a mistake) and letting it go is huge. To me, that's giving yourself grace: recognize it, apologize for it (if need be) and let it go.

- Pursue my passions: when you work from home, especially in an "online" capacity, it's really easy to always feel the need to work. The internet is always open; there are bloggers who are constantly engaged with their communities and you can feel pressure to do the same; your kids always need something or there's a play date you *should* attend; there's your children's activities you have to go to, like basketball or theater. The demands on modern parents is never-ending. This year, I'm going to intentionally carve out space for MYSELF. I love to paint, love to craft, I love to cook, I love to garden and love to decorate. All those things can go hand in hand, thankfully, and I want to focus on them a little more so that I'm an emotionally happy person. We've all heard the saying - only when YOUR cup is full can you properly pour out of it and help care for others. This is one of the ways I want to fill my own cup to be a better pour-er for my husband and kids.

Excited to read more and experiment more with both veggie and flower gardening in 2020

Mental health:
- Get off social media more often: it's no surprise; social media is detrimental to our mental health. Even the most well adjusted people end up comparing their lives to others, or get jealous when they see a friend advance/get something new/etc that they can't have or can't afford. Maybe it's not even that extreme, but you just feel bad because your neighbor got the perfect shot of their newborn baby and you couldn't even muster to break out your camera or forgot to call a photographer. I consider myself pretty well adjusted, and even I get bummed out when I spend too much time on social media. It's simply a drain on happiness and a detrimental to your system.

- Watch less TV: there just isn't much on that's worth watching, frankly. Sure, I love BRAVO and I love Andy Cohen, I love HBO series and I love quite a few Netflix series. But at one time, there might be one or two shows a week that I'm interested in watching. The funny thing is, when you're not watching TV, you realize how much time a week you actually waste doing it! I've really gotten back into reading, and if one of my shows isn't on, or if my husband is traveling (we watch most of our shows together, so with the exception of anything on BRAVO together, if he's not around, I won't watch it without him) I suddenly have two or so hours a night to fill. I've already started doing this, and it's great to get back into reading. It improves my sleep quality and I'm actually using my brain instead of numbing it out in front of the TV! I plan to post an updated list of all the reads I've enjoyed lately, but if you want to start shutting of your TV and start reading, this is a great list to get you started. Best part is, it's free at your library, or dirt cheap on Kindle/Amazon.

I've already finished both of these, which were excellent reads - I'll write up a second list of entertaining reads if you're trying to get off screens more often as soon as I have a good list going

Physical health:
- Learn new recipes: I love to cook. LOVE it (see above for pursuing my passions!) This past year, I did some exploring with a few new flavors, like the Thai Coconut Curry Soup I made. I want to keep doing that, perhaps with a few cooking classes. We have a market here in Dallas called Central Market that offers cooking classes; I hope to do a few date nights taking one and learning some new flavor combinations with my husband! Win win - date night and learning. Frankly, right now we eat out/get take out as much or even more often than I actually cook, and I'd like to transition that to me cooking mostly at home and rarely going out or getting take out. Making your food is healthier and more affordable, especially if you make it from scratch. I have the skills. Hopefully, with the twins being a tad older, I now can have the time, too. That's been the biggest barrier - time and exhaustion levels. I hope in this new year, I can add new menu items to our rotation and cook more meals at home.

This was SO tasty and took 25 minutes to put together. I hope to cook more meals at home in 2020

- Get outside every single day: I'm so thankful to live in the deep South where it's enjoyable to get outside year round! When we just had Henry and Otto, I made us play outside for an hour or two every day; but once we had the twins, it got harder. They're getting older now, and I can't wait for us to all play outside together daily. When they were little babies, it was too hard to take them plus my toddlers in the pool; then in the fall, all the acorns that fell from our live oak trees were a total hazard. But now! Now they're walking and now they can hold onto a swing and soon enough, they'll even be able to help us garden. 2020 is going to be the year of our return to outdoor play! The sunshine is so good for your mental health, the physical activity is good for your body and digging in the dirt is good for your immune system.

Looking for more ideas on living a better, all around healthier life? Check out these great ideas:

Not too lofty goals for the new year, right?! Ha, only time will tell about that. But I think they should be relatively easy to incorporate into a daily life practice. I also completed a two day juice cleanse to "reset" myself after a gluttonous holiday season (I used this product off Amazon - it comes in one, two and three day versions of the cleanse and I highly recommend it if you need a post-holiday system reset! I have a bunch of thoughts on "cleansing" so expect a full post on it later this month) If you've committed yourself to a better you this year, I hope you're inspired by these ways to have a healthier 2020.