Polar Bears & New Year: It’s 2015!!

Sandalwoodyogi

Happy New Year to you!

I hope you are finding what you are looking for today – the first day of a new year. Whether that be a fresh start, resolution for change, acceptance, openness, renewal or just a new day to fill with love & gratitude.

I for one, was ready to jump start the new year. It’s not necessarily about packaging time up in a tidy little box and getting to forget the troubles of the year just past. 2014 was a beautiful & challenging year of growth – a year of inspiration. I have come to love January. I just realized this today. January is the month we had our wedding (I got a sun burn that day). It is the month my husband was born – thankful for that Capricorn! As a sun-loving Californian, January has it all. Crisp air, stunning sunsets, possibility of rain (at last – the hills are green for the first time in a year) & no shortage of sunshine.

green hills

And January marks a new calendar year. For me the new year is encouragement, motivation, & a reminder to seize the day. It isn’t about waiting until tomorrow, or Monday, or even a New Year to make a positive change. Personal growth, working towards goals & even being a happy human being are active & ongoing processes. However, there is something about a new year that says, “Go ahead, you can do this”. Starting a new year, like starting again, is a new beginning. We may need many new beginnings on our journey & this time of year reminds us that it is okay.

In celebration I chose to spend the day with a couple of the people closest to me.

We hiked & connected with nature.

We connected with our community in celebration & renewal (via the Polar Bear Dip – it was playful & restorative).

polar dip

And lastly, carved some time to be with myself in meditation & reflection.

Oh, & we ate good food together too. Yum.

However you begin the year, go for it. Open heart. Courage. Authenticity.

May 2015 bring much love, gratitude & joy.

Holidays: DIY Gift Giving

Joy.

Love.

Celebration.

Togetherness.

Tradition.

Food.

Gratitude.

A former Charlie Brown Christmas tree (no tree this year)

Hmmm… so many words pop up when thinking about this time of year: the holidays. Thanksgiving has come & gone, but the opportunity to be grateful & express our gratitude is there every day. I am still beginning my day by giving thanks for another beautiful day of life. This has definitely made getting out of bed easier as I have been battling the strong desire to hibernate ever since the time change.

Tangent. The point is, the holidays bring up many different things for all of us. This time of year is an interesting blend of magical traditions & chaos. One thing I am doing this year to enhance the enjoyment of gift giving & reduce the stress around the holidays is DIY gifting. Getting creative, recycling supplies, crafting gifts unique as the individual within the comfort of home – it’s a win, win, win!

With Pinterest at our fingertips, DIY has never been easier! Here are some of my favorite homemade gift ideas (spoiler alert – some of you may be receiving one of these gifts from me this year!):

  1. COOKIES – I want to try this Paleo Peppermint Fudge Recipe!!
  2. Sugar Scrub – indulgent & simple! (check out 6 recipes with detailed directions)
  3. Jerky – turns out you can do it on low in the oven if you don’t have a dehydrator!jerky
  4. “Gratitude Granola” … or any granola 🙂 Try this recipe from Oh She Glows.
  5. Sunflower Seed Butter (or you can try any nut butter: peanut, almond, cashew…)
  6. Kombucha – hey, it’s tasty, affordable & healthful!
  7. Mix Tape… or whatever the modern Mp3 version of this is (I miss the simple days)!
  8. Slippers… anyone else have fond memories of grandma gifting these? We got knitted ones with yarn bobbles. Here is a simpler version that’d be fun for kids!
  9. A good book… great for white elephant & gift exchanges. Because recommended books are best, so even if they are a little loved – pass them on!
  10. Vanilla Extract – I love receiving this one! DIY Flavored Extract Recipesvanilla
  11. Advent Calender – fun & unique holiday tradition
  12. Mason Jar with just about anything in it! (Check out these cute ideas!)
  13. Photobook – I love Shutterfly & they ALWAYS have coupon codes available!
  14. Art Supply Kit – or any “kit” (ice cream sundays, build a fort, scrapbooking, spa…)
  15. Original jewelry – check out this spin on friendship bracelets (hint hint: I want one!)
  16. Neck Wrap/Heating Pad – fill with rice & add some essential oils

BONUS: Surprise Balls – Looks fun for kids or stocking stuffers!!

Here another post with 65 cool DIY ideas… “65 Amazing Homemade Christmas Gifts

Share your ideas with us!!

May your gift giving me unique, generous & full of love. Happy Holidays!!

Embracing “That time of the month”

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the female body & how it reflects and is in sync with the cycles of the Earth. Everything is connected in a beautiful way. Despite the messages we receive daily from society & media, our body cycles are beautiful in this same way.

Check out this cool video by Laci Green about reconsidering your relationship with your body – specifically your attitude and approach to menstruation.

***Men – before you go running from this topic – this applies to you too! We can all learn a little and rethink our attitudes towards “that time of the month”.

Really though, this post is about passing on a cool new thing I just learned about! The menstrual cup! Say, what?

Menstrual Cup

Yep… a medical grade silicone cup that is used in place of tampons to catch menstrual flow! Say goodbye to that monthly expense – you only need 1 cup which ranges from $20-40 & can last up to 10 years!! No more bleached, chemical-laden products that can leave behind micro tears in the vagina & leave you susceptible to infection (no more TSS worries)! Plus, one silicone cup compared to 10 years of pads/tampons in a landfill? Sounds like a great way to reduce the ecological footprint! You can find out more or purchase a menstrual cup at Gladrags.com & Divacup.com.

Remember my post on charting your fertility signs? Once again, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this alternative method that embraces the natural cycles of life & the female body. I am simultaneously empowered and also stunned that I am almost thirty years old and only now learning about this option! Spread the love & spread the world people.

Looking for ways to take better care of & honor your body but not into the menstrual cup idea? Check out gladrags.com for reusable pantyliners & pads that are better for your body & much more sustainable for our planet!

 

 

 

Give Thanks: A Month of Gratitude

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough”

 

fall1

Did you notice the date on my chosen FALL photo? 3 1/2 years ago. Wow. Watching a little person grow up is great way to cultivate gratitude. I have so much love for this little man & I am truly blessed for every moment I get to share with him.

Focusing on the people & things that we love and are grateful for will bring more goodness into our lives. One awesome suggestion from Tiffany Peterson (life coach & leader of this Gratitude Series) is to make your first conscious thought every morning: “Thank God for another day of life”. You can thank God, your belief of a higher power, or thank the universe – whatever touches your heart. The important thing is that if we begin each new day by giving thanks we are setting up our day (& life) to be filled with happiness & opportunity.

This month I am participating in Tiffany Peterson’s Gratitude Series – check out this link to follow along & be inspired to bring more Gratitude & Generosity into your own life.

And what better time then November? The month of Thanksgiving for all of us Americans. A time to reflect on all we have to be grateful for. A time to give selflessly to others. The perfect time to set a precedent for the type of person we want to be all year round.

Let’s focus on being grateful this month! Here are some ideas & actions we can take to express & cultivate gratitude:

  1. Gratitude Journal: write down at least 3 things every day that you are thankful for
  2. Posts: Take a photo, video or post every day this month to share what you are thankful for (ex: Start your 100 Happy Days)
  3. Tell someone specifically what you appreciate about them
  4. Random Act of Kindness (ex: buy the person behind you their coffee or pick up someone else’s task/chore)
  5. Send a hand written note (consider challenging yourself to write 1 per day all month!)
  6. Donate to your favorite non-profit or charity (ex: Grow a mustache &/or donate to support Movember)
  7. Tell yourself (in the mirror) what you love about yourself
  8. Call a friend or family member you haven’t reached out to lately
  9. Organize or contribute to a holiday food drive

What other ideas do you have for creating a life of gratitude & generosity starting this month? Maybe I’ll save the last piece of pie for someone else this year…

 

Chocolate Chia Pudding & Confessions of a Sugaraholic

Your hormones, taste buds and brain chemistry have been hijacked by the food industry. Not metaphorically, but biologically.

-NY Daily News: “Sweet poison: How sugar, not cocaine is one of the most addictive & dangerous substances”

Sugar is an addiction. The above article opens by stating: Sugar is the new tobacco. Wow. That couldn’t be more true. It is extremely hard to avoid sugar even when trying. But who tries? Sugar hides in most foods on the market & tastes insanely good! Excess sugar in the diet contributes to headaches, mood swings, anxiety, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, & obesity, not to mention chronic inflammation which is at the root of many other difficult health conditions. Check out this article on America’s Sugar Addiction for some shocking facts about sugar consumption.

Despite my love for all things sweet, alas, sugar is no good for the body, mind or soul. All my education, research & experimentation support this truth. I must say goodbye to sugar. Up until this point in my life, I have never been able to approach sugar in moderation. I always end up back at excess. So while some people can learn moderation, I believe I am an addict & must get clean. 100%. All in. Struggling with sugar has brought a new respect for those battling addictions to other drugs. Abstinence is hard. So hard.

I have had many nights of sneaky snacking, baking & eating entire batches of cookies (that’s normal right?), finishing off the ice cream at breakfast & repeatedly seeking comfort from food during the ups & downs of life. As someone who values preventative wellness & knows healthy eating is the foundation for a vibrant life, these cycles of overindulgence have come with guilt, self-loathing & predictable sugar craving/binge cycles. And let’s not forget the irritability, anxiety, low energy & lack of motivation that accompanies too much sugar in the body.

There is good news though! We can take back control over our physical, mental & emotional health. I am proud to say I have been clean 10 days! That means no regular ol’ sugar, added sugar, processed foods, natural sugars (like honey, agave, maple), or grains that quickly turn to sugar. Phew! It’s hard but awesome. I don’t know why this particular detox is working, but I am feeling stronger & more empowered each day. I don’t want to go back. I will complete this 30 day challenge (part of my Thirty before 30 goals) on Tuesday, November 4th & then assess my long term plan.

Check out this women’s health magazine article about cutting sugar out in 5 phases if you want to try it out in smaller steps. For a more immediate detox, try completing a Whole 30 (thirty days of clean eating)Mark’s Daily Apple is also a great resource for cleaning up the diet & eliminating processed foods & sugar. Check out the before & after stories and photos for inspiration!

If you have a feisty sweet tooth like me… try this chocolate chia pudding recipe I whipped up tonight. It’s a great reminder that there are ways to include treats without the added sugar & junk! This turned out so delicious that I ate some for dessert & the rest will be breakfast!

Chocolate Chia Pudding (AKA Easy Chia Breakfast Bowl)

Ingredients

  • 4 T chia seeds
  • 1 c full fat, organic, canned coconut milk (less milk = thicker consistency)
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice (opt)
  • 1/4 c organic pumpkin puree (opt)
  • optional mix-ins: raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, macadamia nuts, almond butter, frozen raspberries, cocoa nibs, unsweetened cocoa powder, dash sea salt

Directions

  1. Mix chia & milk in a bowl.
  2. Add remaining ingredients & stir until well mixed.
  3. Refrigerate at least one hour (or overnight for thicker pudding).
  4. Add mix-ins of choice (I actually mixed in all the items listed above before refrigerating).
  5. Serve chilled. Yum!

Easy peasy. The fun thing about this recipe is it can be adapted to all tastes. Plus, it packs such a health punch that it can be eaten for breakfast or dessert as party of a healthy diet. Use your milk of choice. Perfect your bowl by adding in or leaving out ingredients  – nuts, nut/seed butters, spices, dry/fresh fruits coconut & cocoa/nibs. You can try an apple or blueberry pie theme. I went for a cross between chocolate pudding & pumpkin pie. The options are endless!

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Much love & strength on your wellness journey!

Our Water Use: The 5 Gallon Challenge

big sure waterfall

The sound of water splashing against the rocks as it falls into a pool below is a beautiful thing. Between our trips abroad & here on the central coast, our summer has been pretty full of beautiful (yet fairly small) falls. The power & beauty is striking. However, standing in front of a waterfall is a sharp contrast & reminder of the harsh drought California still faces. (Read this article on the current state of California’s water usage).

I talked about water conservation earlier in my post: Big, Blue & Beautiful: H2O.  As the conversation continues to grow, more & more Californians (and people all over the world) are becoming aware of the urgent need to preserve our precious water resources. Check out this beautiful & inspirational video that was made in response to the ALS challenge: The Five Gallon Challenge.

Our Five Gallon Challenge

The average American uses 75-100 gallons of water per day. So for a household of two (like us) that would be around 150-200 gallons per day. (Read more stats & facts at EPA.gov/watersense). So today, me & the hubby completed this challenge in response to the ALS Ice Bucket challenge (thanks to my eldest nephew for the nomination!), The Five Gallon Challenge, & the growing water crisis in California.

First we measured out 5 gallons of water…

…and then we taped the faucets off, limited our number of toilet flushes, and went about the day as usual.

Okay, our day was a little different than usual. We couldn’t shower (as a ten minute shower would be at least 20 gallons of water each), so we used washcloths to get clean. Dish washing took a little longer taking care to conserve every precious drop. Watching the water level go down in our little supply was an eye opening experience. Even a midst drought, we are so very blessed to not feel an immediate threat of going without water in our daily lives.

I couldn’t brew new tea for my kombucha because I didn’t want to risk running out of water before the day was over. Having to stop & think before every water use was a different feeling. It was hard to be patient & weigh priorities before consuming water. It was also empowering.

A few work colleagues & I started pairing up when we needed the toilet. I don’t mean we went in together, but everyone would do their thing in turn & the last person flushes. It sounds kind of gross in terms of hygiene & definitely outside of our normal privacy comfort zone. However, it turns out to be a pretty effective strategy with each non-flush saving between 1-7 gallons depending on the toilet. TMI?

So, here are the numbers…

4.5 gallons of water: total water used by our household today. This was all our water usage (excluding toilet flushing), which included personal hygiene, dish washing, drinking, cooking, cleaning & watering plants (the outdoor plant didn’t get watered).

10 gallons of water: This is our estimated water usage for toilet flushing. We used 7 gallons of water combined for all our flushes while at work (both our employers use low-flow toilets). Since we were not sure the gallons per flush of our home toilet, we kept our home usage to just TWO flushes – pretty good, right? Turns out it is hard to break the habit of always flushing. Have you ever pre-flushed in a public restroom to clear the bowl? I’m guilty. And that doubles your water consumption! Okay, moving on…

The cool thing about this challenge is we were mindful in every choice we made about our water usage today. I feel so much gratitude to our water & a deepened desire to contribute to making this world better for everyone. We will start by donating to three of our favorite organizations that strive to make a difference in people’s lives.

I now challenge you to complete The Five Gallon Challenge to support water conservation efforts & be part of the change our planet needs!

 Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

Give & Give Thanks

I received a gift yesterday that I am beyond excited about & must share. A set of essential oil blends for mood management. There are many ways to use these oils to promote feeling grounded, motivated, hopeful & at peace. I have several routines for self-regulation using these blends & will share more about using essential oils for managing emotions in an upcoming blog post (hopefully soon!).

Essential Oils for Emotions

Yes, I just started a post about giving by talking about something that I received. But that is the beauty of giving – whether you are the giver or receiver – you win either way. As the receiver I have been filled with appreciation & gratitude. And when I give, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of love & purpose. We have many opportunities every day to both give & receive if we are open. Giving to others what we can is a simple way to strengthen our connection, community & world.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life but what we give.    -Winston Churchill

With this in mind, I incorporated giving into my Thirty before 30 list. Although the project is centered around self-growth & experience, service to others is a priority. My giving goals for this year include donating blood, volunteering at a local fundraiser & a random act of kindness.

This month I have been focusing on donating: select 1 item to give every day for a month. It is a simple way to reduce the number of things that we have and also give to a charity in support of those in need. This is a fun one because it is in line with my values of living minimally & serving others. (For honesty sake, please note I selected all 31+ items in a two day period after a friend – who is also doing the challenge – suggested this technique. Once I started collecting items to give – sifting through my wardrobe, kitchen & cupboards – it snowballed quickly into more than 31 items.)

Giving feels good. Everyone wins. It can come in all forms. We are all capable of giving to others. A smile or acknowledgement. A hug. A piece of food from your lunch. Kindness. Love. Give for others. Give for yourself. Give and make our world a happier & more loving place.

One last thing. Have you heard of Giving Tuesday? This relatively new holiday dedicated to giving falls on Tuesday, December 2nd this year. Check out givingtuesday.org to start planning ways that you can give back. With the holiday season upon us, what better time then now to help out a friend, neighbor or fellow human being?

DIY: Sunscreen

The turn of the season is here & I can feel the shift in the air. It is getting dark earlier. And it is a time for harvest & gratitude (a little extra than normal!). While I am excited to embrace everything fall, the reality is still dry heat & drought in California. As far as the drought goes – being mindful & making little changes daily makes a big difference. Check out this informative & inspirational video a local couple made in response to the Ice Bucket Challenge & the serious water situation in California:

The Five Gallon Challenge

Be inspired. Contribute to a positive change. My household is making plans to complete this Five Gallon Challenge, so more on that to come 🙂

tree

The cool thing about being a Californian is all the natural beauty we get to explore year round because the weather encourages outdoor play! So although summer has come to a close, sunscreen is still a critical part of a successful adventure!

Homemade sunscreen is great for the skin & non-toxic. I love to DIY my beauty products to reduce the chemicals I expose myself (& our world) to!  The majority of the ingredients used in the Sunscreen Recipe below carry a natural SPF 2-6. The Zinc Oxide brings the recipe to approximately SPF 20.

Sunscreen Recipe

sunscreen1Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide
  • 1 teaspoon Vitamin E Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Unrefined Shea Butter
  • 12 drops certified therapeutic grade Helichrysum Essential Oil (Read more about essential oils)
  • double boiler (I use a quart sized mason jar in a pot with a couple inches boiling water in it)

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients except Zinc Oxide & Helichrysum to the double boiler (mason jar that is sitting in the pot of boiling water).
  2. Stir with a wooden stick (I use a chopstick!) until melted & thoroughly combined.
  3. Remove from heat & wait 3 minutes to cool slightly.
  4. Add Zinc Oxide & Helichrysum. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Allow to cool & apply as needed before sun exposure.

*Please remember this sunscreen needs to be reapplied regularly, especially after prolonged water activities.

DIY Days: Lavender Peppermint Lip Balm

 DIY Lip Balm

Know any self-diagnosed lip balm addicts? I know a few. I myself do like some good lip love! After years of trying different brands, I finally learned to make my own. I will never go back! I am excited to share this simple recipe with you…

DIY Lip Balm is easy! Even pouring the mixture into the tiny tubes without spilling gets easier with practice (I only coated the kitchen floor one time)! The perks of making your own include –

  1. WAY Cheaper – okay, I haven’t actually done the math on this one yet, but I’d guess I make around four tubes for the same cost as buying one from the store!
  2. All Natural – I choose the ingredients & there are no chemicals or additives!
  3. Flavors & Scents – Using certified therapeutic grade essential oils I can try a wide variety of combinations (ex: citrus/lime, peppermint/orange, lavender) & get the added therapeutic benefits of each of these oils!
  4. FUN – did I mention DIY beauty products is super fun? And easy?

DIY Lavender Peppermint Lip Balm

Lavender Peppermint Lip Balm Recipe – Makes 3-4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • 3 T Beeswax (the more you use the firmer the finished product)
  • 2 T Coconut Oil (Coconut Oil melts easily in heat so the more you use the softer the lip balm – at least in summertime!)
  • 1 T Shea Butter
  • 1 T Cocoa Butter
  • 20 drops certified therapeutic grade Peppermint essential oil
  • 10 drops certified therapeutic grade Lavender essential oil
  • 1-2 drops Vitamin E Oil (optional)
  • Quart size mason jar & pot with a couple inches water (this serves as double boiler)
  • Empty Lip Balm Containers – makes about 20 lip balm tubes
  • Colored Mineral Makeup (optional – if you want to add a tint)

Directions:

  1. Remove caps from lip balm containers & line up on the counter (double check each is twisted to the bottom of the tube to fit the maximum amount in).
  2. Measure Coconut Oil, Shea & Vitamin E into the mason jar.
  3. Boil a couple inches of water in pot on the stove & then set the mason jar in the water to melt the ingredients. (Be gentle as the glass is fragile as it heats up!)
  4. Stir occasionally until melted & combined (approx. 10 minutes).
  5. After mixture is completely melted, remove from the heat.
  6. Cool for three minutes before adding essential oils. Stir. Stir in tinted makeup now if desired.
  7. Pour into lip balm containers & allow to cool.

Tips:

  • Stir with a wooden chopstick to make cleanup easier.
  • Use the same mason jar for all your DIY & you can store as is without needing to wash!
  • Add cute, hand-written labels for a personal flare!
  • Check out my post on essential oils for more info on why I use this brand & how to order.
  • Replace half the Shea Butter with Cocoa Butter for a peppermint patty effect! Yum!
  • Make plenty of extra for friends – these make a great gift!

The International Day of Peace: September 21, 2014

Guess what?

This Sunday, September 21, 2014 is the 33rd anniversary of The International Day of Peace. I bet you already knew that after reading the title of this post. But, what an important thing to be aware of! I just found this out thanks to my local chapter of TM (read more here about Transcendental Meditation). They are organizing a group meditation for peace that I am planning to attend this Sunday.

I am looking forward to connecting with my community and meditating on peace & love. Our world needs more of these things. Meditation is a small step that we can take to find greater peace within & thus send more peace out into the world.

The president of the Global Union of Scientists for Peace, John Hagelin, discusses how meditation is a key factor in the Global Peace Initiative:

“Violent behavior is rooted in the brain. The only way to prevent violent behavior is to restore balanced brain functioning. The Brain-Based Approach to Peace restores balanced neurological functioning on the individual & global scale.”

If you are interested in reading more about how the brain & behavior are linked, or just want to better understand how you can directly influence Peace through meditation, check out the Global Peace Initiative website as it breaks down this brain-based approach for reducing violence & global conflict. It explains the science behind & reasons why every person who meditates can make a big impact on global peace.

“It means that only a few thousand individuals are needed to produce an extremely powerful & scientifically demonstrable effect of orderliness & calm in the surrounding society – even on a national or global scale.”

-Global Peace Initiative

This day encourages us all to look at ways that we can make a difference. So often I hear folks (& my own internal dialogue) talk about how insignificant their actions are or how they are not wealthy or powerful enough to make change. Every small effort we make contributes to the whole. Awareness. Action. Compassion. Love. We can all send positive ripple effects out into our universe. We must believe we make a difference.

If you want to find creative ways to celebrate the International Day of Peace  or find events near you check out the official website for more information!

I want to share some photos of places that have inspired Peace…

peace4 peace5 peace3 peace2 peace1