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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Chemical Detox

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I’m getting pretty crunchy in my old age (of 30). I’ve always been green to some degree, more in regard to the world around me than myself. I recycled when I was little (thanks Grandma and Grandpa), I did my best to conserve water and energy. But I can’t say I’ve always cared about what I’ve put in and on my body. I grew up eating processed junk, and still eat too much of it. Eating whole foods, choosing organic and sustainable options, are still a work in progress for me. I make the effort because I want a healthier lifestyle, I want to be good role model for Leia. I really want to be that lady that does all her shopping at Whole Foods and farmers markets, in yoga pants to show off a tight ass earned by lots of Bikram. If I can become that woman half the time I’ll be happy. Because, to be honest, sometimes I just want to eat velveeta shells and cheese, red vines and a diet coke for dinner.

I’ve recently made a conscious effort to expose myself (and Leia) to fewer chemicals, not just with what we eat and drink but what we put on our bodies. I cook often, so I’m changing out our nonstick pots and pans for cast iron and stainless. I made myself familiar with Skin Deep. Most of my parenting practices align me with “hippie mama” resources so the first changes I made were the ones that affected Leia. We switched to Burts Bees (soap and lotion) and Seventh Generation (bubbles). I know there are options than have fewer chemicals, but they aren’t “tear free” obviously, so they won’t work for her just yet.

I change up shampoos like some people change channels (har har). I don’t think I’ve ever bought the same shampoo twice. I mean, look at all those options, I’m constantly in search of “the one” that gives me gorgeous hair with no effort (I know I’m searching in vain). The point being it’s not a big deal to try a something new with the goal of avoiding parabens, phthalates, sulfates. I tried Oraganix. Hated it. I tried Burts Bees. Hated it. I even disliked Purology, which seems to be universally loved. I know that I like Redken products so their Nature Rescue line is next on my list to try. I have dry ends/oily roots/half wavy/fluffy/layered/never ever colored hair. Until a few weeks ago, I shampooed and conditioned every day. This is frowned upon, I know. I love a squeeky clean scalp and I couldn’t get my mind around the concept of washing less to make my hair healthier. Now that I’m a few weeks into to washing every other day, I think I’m starting to adjust. I still use my chemical laden Suave shampoo, but at least it’s not as often. I’m also on the search for a product that gives me soft defined waves that last all day without becoming fluffy and frizzy – but that’s a whole different discussion.

Unlike my search for hair care, my search for face wash has been a big success! I researched the “oil cleansing method” and decided to jump on the bandwagon about a week ago. I’ve always bought face wash that promised one or more of the following: exfoliating, clearing, smoothing, resurfacing. I like to physically scrub my skin. I struggled with acne for most of my teens and 20’s. I still have an occasional breakout, but now my primary skin issues are sun damage, uneven tone, pores and scars.

Terrible bathroom light, no make up, just washed face. I can’t believe I’m posting this. Obviously I don’t expect skin miracles (and I could use a little microdermabrasion), but hopefully in a few months my skin is more even and glowing.

The concept of using oil to clean my skin was hard to buy into. But the more I read the more it made sense and so far I really love it. I use a mix of grapeseed oil and castor oil, with a a few drops of tea tree oil for antibacterial benefits. In the morning I rub the oil on my face while I’m waiting for the shower to heat up. When I step in I ut a washcloth in hot water and let it sit on my face for about a minute, then wipe it off as I shower. My skin is soft, it looks and feels smooth. Obviously it’s too early to know how my skin will react over time, but so far I’m really pleased. Want to know why? Not just because it’s free of fancy long named chemicals – it’s cheap and easy. Did I mention cheap? I like cheap.

Last time I was shopping at Sephora (which is like once a year, if that), I got a sample of this stuff called ExfoliKate. The sample had about 2 uses in it, and it was amazing! My skin was immediately softer and smoother. I kept touching my face, in awe. But the smallest tube is $20. Two ounces will set me back $85! Maybe when I win the lotto I can be that girl that spends big money on cosmetics. Anyway, I researched the primary ingredient, lactic acid. The always accurate internet pointed me in the direction of yogurt as a source of lactic acid. So I made a little mask with a spoonful of (full fat, not non fat) plain greek yogurt and lemon juice. I left it on my face for about 20 minutes. The mask got tight as it dried and tingled a little – obvious signs of success 😉 My skin tone did seem more even and was noticeably soft – not as dramatic as ExfoliKate, but it cost me about $0.10. I’m going to try it twice a week for a month or two and cross my fingers. There’s a sea of homemade face mask recipes on the internet so I can always keep searching.

Last week I experimented with making my own face cream. There are tons of recipes out there, I chose this Homemade Lotion recipe from MomPhotographer. I followed her suggestion and used 1/2 cup green tea to make it a little thinner. I used store bought aloe juice because I didn’t know anyone with an aloe plant. I bought the ingredients and pretty little blue glass jars through Mountain Rose Herbs, which is a pretty awesome site for delving into the world of homemade cosmetics. It still came out a little thick, but overall I was really impressed. It’s smooth, smells nice, absorbs easily and my skin stays moisturized without being greasy.

A little goes a long way!

I’ve been putting it on my face at night after oil cleansing. I usually use a really nice oil blend on my body after I shower in the morning, so I might keep this cream to use on my hands and feet with gloves and socks when I’m hunkered down on the couch with a book and some tea wine. It feels really rich, but in a good non-greasy way. Making my own face cream was like a really cool science experiment – melting the wax in the oil, watching it change color when it hit the liquids. It was really watery at first and took a good 20 minutes to thicken as it cooled.



A few of my favorite things

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Photo from The Sweet Life

These Peanut Butter Cups Smores are worthy of the rave reviews both times I tested the recipe. The downside? I gained at least five pounds in the last two weeks from having peanut butter cups in my house. Letting them sit for eight hours to cool in the kitchen was a cruel test to my willpower. The first time I made them exactly to the recipe, and they were great. The second time I made the following tweaks: substituting mini marshmallows for the marshmallow fluff, dropping dough in flat clumps on top instead of a solid layer, adding mini marshmallows on top about 5 minutes before they were done, and using mini reeces cups instead of the full size ones.

I’d stick with the fluff. It’s a pain to spread but it melted less, creating a gooey marshmallow center. I liked breaking up pieces of the top crust so the fluff bubbled through. I also liked the crispy toasted marshmallows on top – just make sure you add them in the last 5-10 minutes, not at the beginning. You could go either way with the big or little reeces, but the mini ones come in a bag which means I’m not unwrapping tons of candy (read: less temptation to eat open candy).

Swim skirts! I love them.

From JCrew. Love the color and cut.

I hope these never go out of style. Actually, I’m not a stylish girl so I’ll wear these regardless. But if I can convince myself I’m sort of hip and less matronly, it would be a bonus. I’ve always struggled with how bikini bottoms dig into my hips creating lines and bulges and muffin tops. Even when I’m at my “skinny weight” – which is not skinny, and is about 20 lbs lighter than I am right now – I can’t find bottoms that fit in a way that makes me comfortable. So yay for the swim skirt!

Sucking in and covering all that is jiggly, thank you swim dress.

I also love the swim dress and will probably wear them at the pool and beach all summer. I realize there’s no getting around a swim dress screaming middle aged woman covering her fat hips, but I’m okay with that. I’m too busy chasing a two year old to sit at that perfect angle that makes you look skinny in a bikini, so I’d prefer to be comfortable and cover my jiggly parts.

Now I can eat Reece’s S’mores and wear a bathing suit, ha!

Listening to my xx station on Pandora.

I’m terrible at updating my music library, so bad I don’t actually have a music library anymore. I haven’t bought music since 2006. Checking out a service like Rhapsody or Spotify has been on my to-do list for a while, right there with “figure out Skype.” I can’t wait for Leia to read an archive of this in 10 years and giggle at my inability to figure out what will then be outdated technology. The point is, I really like Pandora. I can plug in artists I like, it makes me a playlist and I’ve got this particular station pretty dialed in. I just recently heard the xx (see? so out of the loop when it comes to music), and so far I’m in love. The station plays a heavy rotation of my current sing-out-loud favorites like Mumford and Sons, Vampire Weekend, Matt & Kim, Florence and the Machine and Ellie Goulding. But the best thing about Pandora is finding new music! So far I’m also loving Calvin Harris, Lana del Rey, Kito & Reija Lee, Passion Pit, Morgan Page, the Hundred in the Hands. I keep a list of artists I like so someday when I do figure out a music streaming service I can download theirs. If anyone wants to post some suggestions based on what I like, I’m all ears (ha).

Nose in a book

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I’ve been reading a lot lately. Definitely more than in college, or any other time in my 20’s. Maybe the exception being when I lived in San Franciscio and took the bus to work so I had a free hour everyday to just read. I wish I could say I loved reading as a child, but I don’t remember enjoying books then the way I do now. Our house had bookcases on both walls in the living room. I think the ancient encyclopedia set (which wasn’t that ancient back then) was my favorite thing to flip through. Grandma took us to the library all the time. She was always on the couch at the end of the day, book in hand, glasses on the rim of her nose. Those memories really warm my heart now because I find myself curled up on the couch with a glass of wine most nights after Leia is asleep. I’m not sure why I didn’t read more, or enjoy reading more as a child. I do know I’m doing my best to inspire Leia with my recently developed love for books.

So what’s been on the list? Mostly YA fiction. I’m 30. I realize some people (Joel Stein) might snicker and suggest I should be embarrassed or disappointed in my lack of sophistication – leave the teen books for the teens and read books for adults. But I figure a good book is a good book. Lev and Patricia have my back on this one.

When my friends and I were in South America, a woman on one of our flights gave me her copy of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Obviously it’s a heavy book to lug around if you’re traveling, e-readers hadn’t come out yet (or weren’t popular at least). I hadn’t seen the movie yet, so I read the book with fresh eyes, and loved it. That book will always bring me back to our trip, trying to stay awake to finish”one more chapter” on plane rides and the long bus ride from Argentina to Brazil.

In between that trip (2009) and Leia’s arrival (2010)  I can’t remember reading anything memorable. Mostly magazines. The seemingly required What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which was much less interesting than Knocked Up (the book not the movie).

I read the Twilight series shortly after Leia was born. I had watched a few of the movies (I think Eclipse had just come out?), and even though I cringed at the acting, I thought the story was interesting and I got sucked in to wanting more. Get it, sucked in, vampire books – haha.

After Twilight, I re-read some books that I enjoyed while I was in San Francisco.

A beautiful story for someone who comes from a family that looks broken on the outside, but has always found ways to thrive.

This book means so much more to be now as a parent. I remember thinking “wow, what a great mom,” slightly shifting my long held stance that I was never going to have kids to “eh, maybe someday.”

A few months ago I got curious about the Hunger Games buzz so I grabbed a copy of the first book at the grocery store.

24 hours later I was drooling for the second book. Thankfully my friend Cydney had the second and third books of the triolgy and didn’t mind leaving them outside her apartment for me to drive by and pick up. I finished the other two over the next 48 hours. A book a day, I’d never read a series so quickly. I was beyond excited to plan a movie date with my girlfriends to see the Hunger Games movie when it game out shortly after. Thankfully the movie did the book justice, and I’m eager to see how Catching Fire holds up in 2013. I’ll definitely re-read the series before then.

Going through three books in a weekend then having nothing to read left me looking for a new series to pick up. I’m a huge fan of True Blood and needed to kill time waiting for the June 10th premier of season five. So I ordered the first eight books of the Sookie Stackhouse series, knowing that the books were supposed to be very different from the show.

I devoured those first eight books in ten days. When Leia took a nap, I read. When she went to bed for the night around seven, I would be up until one or two in the morning, reading. I didn’t watch TV. I didn’t check Facebook (okay, I only checked once or twice). I didn’t return phone calls or texts. I quickly grabbed up books nine through eleven, finishing them just in time for the release of book twelve last month. The books are fantastic and I enjoy how different they are from the show. It’s like having two versions of the same story, an alternate existence. I’ll be sad when the last book comes out next year, but I guess Sookie can’t go on forever.

When I finished those books, my friend Melissa suggested I pick up a YA fiction series called The Mortal Instruments. Since I just dumped a bunch of money on books in the last few months I grabbed the first book at the library. I will admit it felt funny asking the librarian to direct me to the YA section. But Melissa didn’t disappoint!

I read City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass as quickly as I could get my hands on them through the library. I didn’t realize until later there was a fourth book and a then soon-to-be-released fifth book in the MI series. After City of Glass I picked up the author’s prequel series, The Infernal Devices. Going through the library was slow, and I was really enjoying the books, so I justified the cost of purchasing the two available books, Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince.

After I finished those I went back to The Mortal Instruments series to read City of Fallen Angels. The fifth book, City of Lost Souls came out this month and I snatched it up on my last trip to Costco.

The cover looks just like a Fabio covered romance novel, except supernatural and marketed for “young adults.” I swear it’s better than the cliche romance novel, or at least the cliches I’ve heard.

Somewhere in the middle of the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices I took a break to read the Fifty Shades series.

I’m a total bandwagon reader now. If there’s some exciting hype I want to pick it up and see what’s going on. I knew this series was supposed to be sexually shocking. I also read reviews that the writing was poor and the author really needed an editor to comb through it more thoroughly. Both are true. I don’t read romance novels, so drawn out sex scenes aren’t familiar reading for me. The Sookie series has it’s fair share of hot and steamy scenes (hello Eric in the shower….), but somehow tied into the vampire/shapeshifter theme it’s detached from reality a little. So reading Fifty was shocking because it was different – graphic, in your face sex, over and over. The “kinky fuckery” touched a psychological perspective, so I wasn’t shocked by the sex with whips and toys and spanking. I wanted to like these books, and I’m not a book snob by any means. But they won’t be a re-read for me in the future. I would suggest people read them, but mostly so we can rant together. The flaws for me: the constant (every 5 pages?) sex got distracting and predictable, Anna didn’t seem to have an existence or purpose without first considering the thoughts and feelings of Christian, the repetition of 15 or 20 specific phrases throughout the series (if you read the books you know what I’m talking about!), the silly words that made it seem like the author just sat down with a thesaurus and dropped some in at random. I think the real reason women flock to this series (beside the promise of scandalous sex) is to read about a man who is broken and “saved” by love alone from the quiet, shy, unsuspecting heroine. I don’t know many ladies that can say they’ve never tried to fix a broken man. At the end of the third book, in the epilogue, there is a version of their first interview from Christian’s point of view, that was probably the highlight of the series for me. I wish there would have been more from his point of view, more of his history, more of his childhood, more psychology. Oh well.

So while I wait patiently for the rest of the books from Charlaine Harris and Cassandra Clare, I’ve picked up a new book to start.

I’m still on the fence about getting a Kindle. On one hand I’d enjoy being able to buy a book and read it a minute later, to store so many books in such a small, uncluttered space. But I love how it feels to read a book, flip the pages, feel the weight of it on my lap. I looked at the Kindle Fire because Leia can use it (instead of my phone) to play her “shapes” and “fruits” games. I also looked at an iPad. I can’t tell which one is best for me, so I procrastinate on buying anything at all.

It makes me feel old to know e-readers are the way of the future, maybe I’m just trying to hold on to what I know.