Natural Beauty.

So, let me preface all of this by saying beauty/health starts from the inside out. And I say beauty-slash-health because I think a healthy person is beautiful no matter what they look like. They are radiant, vibrant, and they just glow. One big pet peeve of mine is how a large portion of the beauty industry has managed to pull a major one over on people. In my hand right now I have a conventional bottle of shampoo. Here are the ingredients:

Aqua/water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (a known carcinogen), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Acrylates Copolymer, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Sorbitol, Panthenol, Propylene Glycol, Parfum/Fragrance, Glyceryl Laurate, Mantha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, DmDm Hydantoin, Menthyl Lactate, Sodium Hydroxide, Benzophenone-4, Disodium EDTA, Polyquaternium-7, Polyquaternium-16, Limonene, Benzyl Salicylate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Butylene Glycol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Iodopropynyl, Butylcarbamate, Maris Sal/Sea Salt, CI 42090/Blue1, CI 19140/Yellow 5, CI 17200/Red33, Silica

Okay, seriously, WHAT IN THE HELL?

I have no idea what Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate is. Or what Polyquaternium-7 or 16 are. And by the way all the artificial colors are known carcinogens as well. If someone tried to sell you a bottle of this not as shampoo would you buy it? Would you put it on your skin? Would you put it near your eyes? Probably not, right? And even more mind-boggling is how they market this as "Energizing Shampoo with Atomized Sea Water". Legally no one can challenge that. Yes it has Sea Salt, but it's the second to last ingredient, only behind the artificial colors, so there is probably very little of it to offset any of the ton of other non-natural ingredients.

Also, if you had to add fragrance and artificial colors to something (including and especially FOOD), it is probably chemical and harmful slop. Sloppity slop with no cherry on top! So, why get anywhere near this? Why put it in your bloodstream? And if they are chemically laden, how on earth are they "moisturizing" and "revitalizing"? And why are they astronomically priced sometimes- especially the "organic" ones? Hmmmmmm...

Enter the alternatives!

Not only is my hair so much better off after having  stopped the use of all these heavily marketed, cheap, negligible products, but natural products are non-pollutants. This is important because think about everything that goes down the drain into our water supply and then back out of our faucets. Yikes. Natural ingredients don't add to the already toxic load of our city water. And the products I use are not natural in the the way organic pop tarts are "all natural". Their ingredients actually come from nature. :)

Here is what I use on my hair exclusively:

The top picture is my shampoo and "conditioner". I use Calia's Hydrating Shampoo whose ingredients are:

Aqua, palm oil, coconut oil, pine extract, alfalfa extract, chamomile flower extract, echinacea flower extract, nettle leaf extract, clover flower extract, green tea leaf extract, horse tail extract, olive fruit oil, glycerin, citric acid, lavender oil, bergamot oil, rose geranium oil.

That's it! And even that's not clean enough for me because of the glycerin and citric acid, but when I opted out of using pure homemade baking soda shampoo to find one for purchase, this was the best one I found that does not have an overwhelming smell and actually feels clean. (And by the way, I have no vested interest in this company, I just love their shampoo.)

For conditioner I use raw apple cider vinegar. I put the dilution into a plastic cup I keep in the shower. I dilute about 1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water and leave it in until I finish my shower. I give it a quick rinse and my hair is shiny and soft!

The picture below that is rosemary infusion which I use as a hair rinse after every shampoo. I put about 4 tablespoons worth of fresh rosemary leaves into 4 cups of water and then use about half a cup every time I use the rinse. It keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks so just use a half a cup or so each time from the jug (I store it in the fridge in a large mason jar). Check out this post from Wellness Mama about the benefits of using rosemary.

Now, I know some of you are wondering about styling products. The only natural styling products I know of are aloe gels with essential oils in them. Other than that I don't know of any clean gels, pomades, hairsprays, mousses, or de-frizzers. Most of the things that will manipulate the texture or direction of your hair will surely have a chemical in it so if you're like me and like clean wholesome products, you'll just stay away (although when I do want some texture I spray some of Alaffia's Texture Spray which kind of works like "beach hair" products) but that's not every day. I understand some people have to use hair styling products to achieve a certain look (models, stylists, performers, etc) so by all means use them. But try to find the best alternatives out there so you can stay as healthy as possible.  We should all pay attention to what's going into our bodies every day. Our bodies are sacred and it's important to remember beauty starts inside and radiates outward. Huge parts of that process are how we feel, the actions we take, and what we allow into our bodies and minds.

Bianco in Coconut Grove!

So, I'm not one to promote too many places on my blog. I think the only other write up regarding a store I've ever posted was about The Knitting Garden (did I mention they have an online shop now???) but if you know me at all you knew it was just a matter of time. :) So, I've found another noteworthy place. The reason I do these write ups is because I would love everyone in this city to patronize these places because they have a certain something that make them special and unique.

What is special about Bianco in Coconut Grove?...

It is the only really healthy ice cream shop in Miami. I met the owner the first time I went in and he was kind and charming and wonderful. He let us try as many flavors as we wanted and as we tasted he told us about how he buys all the ingredients himself and he makes sure everything is fresh, organic, chemical-free and non-gmo. AMAZING! He was so proud of it too and it was sweet to see him smile while he said all of that. He said he did it for his kids (which happened to walk in at the moment he said it) which I thought was so incredibly vulnerable and loving.

The space is decorated clean and tastefully- all wood and white. There are games on the tables and Calvin and Hobbes comic books on one of the tables (he is a man after my heart!) and CHIA SEEDS AS HEALTHY SPRINKLES!!! And... gluten free cones. Squeeeeeee!!!

The ice cream is incredible. He has delicious tasting vegan and non-vegan flavors. My favorite is the Sea Salt and Caramel and the Chocolate Mint but they are all INCREDIBLE. He also has sustainability in mind, as he expressed and as is apparent with his choice of napkins, spoons, and cups.

Please patronize Bianco!!! Let's keep it open and thriving. Let's sustain more businesses such as these- businesses that care about people and about our planet!

Bianco:

3137 Commodore Plaza Coconut Grove, Florida 33133 305.458.4455

biancogelato.com

... and stay tuned for the gem of a coffee shop I found in Coral Gables- Cafe Curuba! It will be my 3rd shameless plug :)

IMG_1767IMG_1768 IMG_1770 IMG_1774 IMG_1775 IMG_1776

Skin CARE.

Someone complimented my skin recently and asked me what my "skin care regimen" was. I giggled at the thought of skin care being regimented and just smiled and said "nothing". I received a look of shock and disbelief and that was the end of the conversation. The truth is, I could have said what I actually do for my skin but I don't think this person was open to hearing it. When she asked me what my "regimen" was I think she needed to hear that I moisturize in the morning and layer eye cream on top, wear tinted moisturizer and sunscreen throughout the day and then use lift cream at night- or something to this effect. The truth is, if I ever use anything it is Witch Hazel with Rosewater in it which I add 5 drops of Immortelle essential oil (from Living Libations) to for a youthful glow and healthy skin on my face and neck and Best Skin Ever (also from Living Libations) or MSM lotion and straight organic coconut oil on the rest of my body. And no, I never ever ever wear sunscreen. Ever, never. We are children of the sun and benefit from its Vitamin D. I know all of us don't have the luxury to be able to tan well, but we can at least take a walk in the sun. But more on that another day...

I only wear make up on special occasions, really.  If for whatever reason I want to spruce up my look, I wear a bit of mascara (there are some great beeswax ones out there!) or some natural lip and cheek tints (Living Libations also has some great ones!).

In my opinion, healthy skin does not have anything to do with Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Nylon-12, Isopropyl Palmitate, Isostearyl Behenate, or Petrolatum (all ingredients found in the VERY sought after and expensive La Prairie skin products). Whatever goes on your skin, goes into the cells of your body. Those ingredients are all synthetic and just wrong. I don't know how women are sold this. There is a need for more women to understand that these disease causing  ingredients have nothing to do with healthy or vital skin and certainly do not "fight aging" or "smooth out wrinkles".

My wish for all women is that more begin to critically think about what they use for beauty and even how they define beauty. I believe beauty is simple and there's nothing a good workout, a healthy meal and some simple organic products can't help!

My M.O. about B.O.

I used to be a Gucci-purse-toting, Fendi-tee-wearing, thick-layer-of-MAC-cosmetics-on- every-inch-of-my-face, low-self-esteem, almost-alcoholic, disaster of a "woman." Now I am a happy, healthy, whole hippie. Now, please don't misunderstand. I don't think the world has to be crunchy like I am now. Everyone has their unique and special path and purpose in the world. But somethings just make good sense. One of them being not wearing chemical deodorants!

If you are at all concerned at the overly-abundant amount of toxic chemicals found in conventional deodorants- and in my opinion, everyone can really benefit from becoming more aware of what they put in their body- I have an easy alternative for you!

There is this wonderful magical fairyland of a website called Mountain Rose Herbs. It has tea blends, herbs, essential oils, spices, seasonings and a spectacular variety of natural products for our bodies and our homes. Through them I learned to make my own deodorant at home.

One thing you learn along the way is that when you start cleaning up your environment and the kinds of foods you eat you start to need deodorant less and less because your body works more efficiently and is cleaner from the inside out. The toxic load is reduced. I mean body odor is never going to smell like roses, but you do smell less and sometimes not at all. And if you are totally crunchy like me, you don't mind a little occasional sweat. If I offend anyone, it's more their issue, not mine. Admittedly, I don't use deodorant everyday because for one I have two kids and I forget. But also because it is no longer a priority for me to mask my natural scent. If one is to believe Spirit created us in all its perfection, shouldn't that include our sweat glands as well? Something to think about!

Buuuuuut, like I said everyone has their preferences. So, if you opt for deodorant, I urge you to read labels. They're kinda scary! And if you are keen on trying this at home, here is the recipe I got from Mountain Rose Herbs (you can purchase all the ingredients there or at any health food store and you can find awesome, high-quality essential oils here and here):

1.5 oz organic Witch Hazel extract

10 drops organic Sweet Orange essential oil

1-2 drops of organic Vetiver essential oil

(optional) 5 drops of vanilla or rose oil (just because I LOOOOOVE vanilla and rose oils)

... and if all of this is way too much for you, you can always dip your finger under the running water in the bathroom sink, dip it into a box of baking soda and- voila- that one tiny bit will leave you stink free all day!

Have fun brewing!

My heart-opening glass of water.

I LOVE our friends. We don't get store-bought fruit cakes, re-gifted wines, or cheesy things with green felt lining on the bottom, we get incredible gifts- olive oil from a family farm in Torino, personally harvested chaga from Woodstock, hand-made smudge sticks from Mt. Shasta, rare fruits, coca leaves from Peru, stones/crystals from different places, and all manner of wonderful things from all over the Earth. And spring water. As in spring water collected from a spring. Who has had the opportunity and great blessing of drinking living water knows what a gift it is to consume. Actual spring water isn't a bottle of water that says "spring water" on its label. That water is treated and completely void of any and all traces of its original content if it was ever collected from a spring in the first place. So, if you've been drinking dead water your whole life and then have the chance to drink live, truly hydrating water from a spring (like I did a few years back from a spring in Maine when my friend brought us some in two 5 gallon jugs- Thank you Nalla!!! <3), that first sip is like an oceanic experience. It was so smooth and soft. It felt like velvet in my mouth and like oneness in my heart. I closed my eyes and felt connection to Pachamama and to Source. It took a moment to remember where I was. I held my glass of water as if I were holding a precious gem and I drank it deliberately and oh so ceremoniously. It was sublime. I was satiated like never before and didn't need water again until much later in the day.

A day later, still high from the experience, I sat in meditation and and my mind wandered to what in the WORLD else I was potentially missing from living a life of conformity and complacency. I began to get a real and more complete sense of why people like Daniel Vitalis began a website called www.findaspring.com and why people are choosy with their water, food, clothes, environment, etc etc etc. Before my experience with that glass of water, I thought why would ANYONE drive to a spring when they can get a decent bottle of water from the local Whole Foods. Then that "decent" water became not even close to good enough. It began to dawn on me why things like this were important. Why asking questions was important. Thus began my second round- so far in this lifetime- of unearthing some major truths.

Without asking questions, we miss being an active part of our own lives. It takes more work and creates discomfort sometimes, but isn't it worth taking matters into our own hands? Asking questions demands more from all of us... something, I understand, that is not for everyone. But I truly wish more of us would do it, for everyone's sake. After my water experience, my questions took me down another point of no return. I learned things I could never unlearn, nor would I want to. It is seemingly easier to live on automatic pilot and allow things to be chosen for me, but in the long and short run I am absolutely content being the author of my life or as much as I am allowed without beginning to hit some serious walls. Some call me a conspiracy theorist which is fine because I am the first to say that most truths nowadays do sound like an intricate plot for a bad movie: Murderous multi-national bio-tech company creates genetically modified bees that go mutant and wipe out the population of the earth in three days! Yes, Monsanto is now in the business of creating the frankenbees that can resist the chemicals and pesticides in their frankenfoods- the very frankenfoods that are wiping out the real bees and us.

Another friend of ours brought us a gallon of spring water this weekend and again I had some deep remembrances as I sipped. I felt again the very real truth that I am of the earth and that regardless of how strange life feels at times and how far we seem to have strayed from our original intent, everything is alright and everything comes from God (or Source, or Spirit, or whatever name you give it- if you even believe there is an IT). As I sip on it now, I recall the words of a very spiritual being that I heard earlier today: "Simplicity is divinity and divinity is simplicity." I gave some to my daughter so I can continue the legacy... so there will continue to be people on this Earth that know what truth tastes, smells, looks, sounds and feels like. And so that there will always be people to seek it out.

New Year.

There are a few things I always do on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day... 1. Watch "When Harry Met Sally"

2. journal (or in this case blog) while I listen to a great playlist which always starts with Bette Midler's version of "What are you doing New Year's Eve?"

3. meditate

4. Set intentions for the upcoming year

I don't like saying "make new year's resolutions" because the word "resolutions" gives me a picture of people trying to do things that never actually happen like "lose weight", "ask that guy out", "dump that loser", or "make more money". Maybe those things don't happen because spoken so casually and lackadaisically they lack true intention and specificity. I've made plenty of resolutions that have been forgotten by the end of January so now I choose to set intentions.

So, what are these intentions I speak of?

There are always so many. The question becomes more "how do I narrow down what I want to focus on this year?" It took some time to decide but the top 3 are:

1. Open my heart more. Think with my heart. Accept and surrender.

2. Nurture friendships.

3. Concentrate on my temple's physical aspects- yoga, belly-dancing, and movement galore!

*** Sidenote: I love that the repetitive lyrics to the song I'm currently listening to are "Why would you play by the rules?" !!!!!! ***

For 1, I realize that having children has put me in a more anxious state. I have forgotten how to drop down into the space of silence and trust. The place of the simple "I am." The place where my heart understands and is at-oned with the mysteries of this universe. It's ironic because at the same time my heart has been monumentally thrust open with the presence and love of my children, it has also been severely neglected in other ways. I have found it hard to find time to journal, to sit in nature, to fill it with it's favorite nurturing yummies and I'm starting to see and feel the effects of that.

I can see how its affected my life because I have seriously dropped into the illusion of "me" and "them." It feels as if the duality dial has been turned to ludicrous speed, especially lately. I feel intolerant of nearly everyone and feel that at the same time I am wanting more compassion, love, and understanding from others, I have been unwilling to fully give that myself. As my sweet friend Gina reminded me the other day, "you have to hold the vibration of that which you are wanting." I feel judgmental of everyone and everything and have allowed myself to use the tip of my tongue for creating things a bit lower than for the highest good. I am not perfect; certainly it could happen again. But I am aware and would love to see a clearer me emerging this year. I am soul-tired of not letting things flow and not accepting people and things just as they are. I am tired of feeling everything external is not enough. And I am absolutely exhausted of fighting my family. My friend Ganesha reminded me of a great point the other day: irradiated or not, crystals that cOme into your space are for a purpose and for your highest good. This goes for people too!

So, heart- I am coming for you. Peacefully... but still coming for you, I am.

For 2, I need my friends. Simple as that. I just NEED them. I welcome new ones into my life if that is to be but whatever the case is, I want deeper friendships. I want to know the people I know more and I want a deep friendship to emerge. One where I can share ME in its entirety. To share days with the kids and feelings and trips and the messiness of life.  I'm not afraid anymore. I turned a corner.

For 3, throughout my entire life I have always moved. I have always danced in some way or another. Ballet, jazz, tap, modern dance, salsa, belly-dancing, yoga (not a dance but it kind of IS). For three years now I haven't been able to dedicate myself to this which I adore so much. But my children have all arrived and they are happy and healthy little ones so it's time to begin to come back to myself more. Bit by bit. This is one of the bits I want to start with. I started yoga once a week again a few weeks ago and in a couple of months I'll be back to my advanced belly-dancing class. It will mean all the more to me now after learning so much about the history of women, the history of where we are really from, the truths of the universe and connections to Mother Earth.

*** Sidenote: I'll also continue to knit and crochet my way into a zen state and write more too, but that's a given. ***

I stand in my resolve so that I can be a better woman and so I can grow my soul. For my family, for my friends, for my community, for my world. I evolve so we can ALL continue to evolve into who we are. To who we always were and always will BE.

Happy New Year! Light and love to all of you. In lakesh a laken. <3

The Mother of All Key Lime Pies.

Let me preface this by saying that I know I say that each of my friends are the most wonderful people on earth but they truly are. Each and every one of them. I feel honored to know them and call each of them my friends. That being said, my friend Willow is one of the gentlest, kindest, most soothing and wonderful persons to be around. Her beautiful little daughter recently celebrated her first birthday party. The event was great. Awesome people, great conversation, delicious raw food and adult free time as she had so brilliantly hired a fairy to entertain the kids! When I asked the fairy for her business card, she handed me a cute pink butterfly with her name and number on it and the title "Fairy for hire". So great.

I am a big lover of key lime pie. What am I saying... I'm a lover of pie period. Willow's raw key lime pie is by far the best key lime pie EVER. And I've had some key lime pies in my life. It even beats the one at Lokal in Coconut Grove (if you haven't tried it yet, run- don't walk- to go get a grass-fed beef or turkey burger and key lime pie for dessert. You'll thank me later!). I haven't tried to make it myself yet as I just got the recipe from her a few days ago but I am so excited to! Raw recipes always take more prep time but the upside of that is no baking time!

Willow credits Cafe Gratitude with the greatness of the pie, but I'm sure her love added to the awesome flavor. I hope mine tastes just as yummy and love-filled as hers :)

Key Lime Pie (raw vegan)

(makes one 9 inch pie) Macadamia-Pecan Crust: 1 1/4 cups macadamia nuts 1 1/4 cups pecans 3 oz date paste 1/4 tsp liquid vanilla (or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder) 1/8 tsp sea salt Directions: -add individual recipe’s crust ingredients to the food processor. In date paste recipes, include half the amount in this step. -process all ingredients until the crust starts to rise on the sides of the processor bowl. -Stop the machine and mix with a spatula or spoon. -repeat a few times until nuts are well broken down. Add remaining date paste (if called for in recipe) and continue processing until mixture is consistent. The final result of the crust should be a mixture that can hold together with a gentle pressure and can be broken apart with a clean break. -lightly grease entire inside of pie pan with some coconut oil. Some nuts become very oily after processing and don’t require this step, such as crusts that are entirely macadamia nut. -distribute crust evenly on the botton and sides of pie pan and lightly compact by hand. -Decorate edge of crust to your liking. Crust should rise above the rim of the pan but not more than a half inch. Set aside until ready to be filled.

Lime filling: 3/4 cup lime juice 1/3 cup raw honey (or 1/2 cup agave syrup) 1/4 cup coconut milk 1 cup avocado (wet measure) 2 tsp liquid vanilla (or 1 tsp vanilla powder) 1/8 tsp sea salt 2 Tbs lecithin 1/2 cup & 2 Tbs organic coconut oil

Directions: -in blender, add all ingredients except coconut oil and lecithin -blend until smooth and creamy -stop blending and add the lecithin and melted coconut oil -resume blending until oil and lecithin are well incorporated -pour filling into pie pan with prepared crust -place in freezer to set (1 to 2 hrs or until middle of pie is firm to the touch, unless otherwise specified in the recipe) (optional: finish and/or garnish pie with coconut meringue)

Coconut Meringue: 3/4 oz Irish Moss (weight) 1/4 cup water 2/3 cup coconut milk Directions: blend until Irish moss is completely broken down add to blender: 1 cup coconut milk 1/4 cup coconut meat (wet measure) 1/2 cup soaked brazil nuts 5 Tbs agave syrup (or 2.5 Tbs raw honey) 1/2 tsp vanilla 1 tsp lemon juice 1/8 tsp sea salt blend well until smooth and creamy, then add: -1 Tbs lecithin -1/2 cup & 1 Tbs coconut oil resume blending until lecithin and oil are fully incorporated. Pour into container and set in fridge until slightly firm, with a soft consistency. For best texture, ideally set in fridge over night. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Good for at least 3 days.

Enjoy! :)

My favorite cookies!

My favorite cookies are ginger & molasses cookies. I've never made these- I've always just bought them at Whole Foods. Now that I have a baby who is more of a sleeper than my first was, I have some time to do some things like bake. This morning I had time to finish up two crocheted slouchies and make banana bread! Next weekend I will be making these bad boys for breakfast and enjoying them with some chai. They are so yummy. I'm sure you'll love them! Ingredients:

4 cups flour (or Pamela's wheat and gluten-free Baking Mix)

4 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp sea salt

2 farm-raised eggs

1.5 cups organic palm oil

2 cups organic palm sugar or 1/2 to 1 cup of raw honey

1/2 cup of organic molasses

organic granulated sugar (optional)

Directions:

1. Melt 1.5 cups of organic palm oil. Let cool.

2. Mix the palm oil, sugar or honey, molasses and eggs. Beat well.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Chill 3 hours or overnight.

4. Form into 1 inch balls. (optional: roll in granulated sugar)

5. Place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

6. Bake at 375 for 8-12 minutes.

Store cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about a dozen cookies.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Aveda, Shmaveda.

I think I've used every possible beauty product out there- from makeup to hair care.  Here is what I have concluded... It's all garbage.

And here is a little bit of information some of you may not know.  Unused frozen cord blood from newborns goes into your Estee Lauder skin renewal creams. (and I'm sure some other companies I just don't particularly know which).  It's not widely known and they would like to keep it that way.  I actually just found out for myself a couple of years ago.  But it just goes to show you the integrity of the beauty business is less than remarkable.

I recently watched Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair" and was baffled by the amount of money women with kinky hair spend on relaxers and weaves.  All this money spent just not to look like yourself.  It just seems so superfluous.  The first time I relaxed my hair I was 15 years old.  Something did not feel right to me when the lady demoing her product said to me "let me know if it starts to burn because we have to wash the product off IMMEDIATELY if not your scalp could blister and scab and your hair could all break off."  WHAT?!?  Chris Rock showed how a can of soda disintegrated into nothing in a matter of hours when left inside a bottle of relaxer mix.  And we're all okay with this.  ?!?

There are SO so so many chemicals in beauty products.  We've been conditioned not to question it or be concerned by it, even when you find out several known carcinogens are in your shampoo.  We've done okay with all of it so far, why bother... right?  I say, "wrong!"

After being in the beauty business for many, many years (a make up artist for MAC at a counter and at fashion shows and a hair dresser for many years as well) I've come to find out what is in conventional beauty products and it ain't pretty.  From crushed beetles, fish gills, highly toxic and abrasive chemicals (not to mention allergenic despite all the hypo-allergenic claims on labels) that could strip your floors, to newborn cord blood it's a wonder how more people are not aware of the exactly what they're putting on their bodies.  But again, we are conditioned to not ask questions.  I used to have a client in a salon I used to work at- she was a BEAUTIFUL, young college girl.  Everything was beautiful about her except her hair.  It was absolutely trashed.  It felt like straw and looked like burnt hay and as much as I suggested she not bleach her hair platinum blonde anymore, she insisted on keeping her hair as light blonde as was humanly possible.  She barely had any hair left on her scalp but whatever was left she wanted it to look like Pam Anderson.  So, I continued to oblige for as long as I could.  This was at the tail end of my career in the beauty business.  I had come to realize that there were people much more willing to damage people's hair/face/skin and put dangerous chemicals on them on a weekly or monthly basis.  My conscience couldn't take it anymore.

Years later when I began to miss the beauty biz, I began looking into working in a more natural salon.  I began doing research on Aveda salons and while Aveda talks a fantastic talk, it's just talk.  The only difference between Aveda and Pantene is that Aveda has cooler packaging and a marketing department that has convinced everyone that it's natural and sustainable.  It's not.  It may possibly donate some of its proceeds to the rainforest here and there as they claim but their ingredients are just as terrible as any conventional product out there.  Their hairsprays are just as much a plastic polymer as any other hairspray out there and their hair color is just as damaging to your scalp.  All-natural Aveda is simply good advertising and a public willing to accept it- no questions asked.

So years after all of these adventures in the beauty business, what is my beauty regimen?  (This is my favorite part!...)

FACE:  I only wear make up on very special occasions (and by makeup I mean mascara, eyeliner and lipstick) and I only buy  products that have a very small ingredient list- all of which I can pronounce and actually know what they are.  I clean my face with Dr. Bronner's Castille soap and tone with rosewater witch hazel.  I moisturize only if I need it with E3Live facial cream- completely free of anything grody.

BODY: I cleanse my body with Dr. Bronner's castille soap and moisturize only when I need it with MSM body lotion, Nubian Heritage's coconut and papaya lotion, coconut oil or PureLife's Monoi Oil.  And I feed myself good, clean, organic food.  For deodorant I use Living Libation's Poetic Pits and more recently Nourish's Fresh Stick deodorant made with ONLY certified organic ingredients that are truly pure and natural.

HAIR:  I shampoo with either Dr. Bronner's castille soap or baking soda and water and I condition with apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water).  That's it!  And my hair is shiny and soft and- when I leave it curly- has beautifully formed curls!

There was a lot of trial and error getting to this beauty regimen.  When I went to change my shampoo and conditioner and tried some products that boasted being 100% natural like Morrocco Method and Nature's Paradise- and although finally and actually 100% natural- they left my hair feeling very oily and/or filmy.  I feel like they were trying too hard to have a glorious cocktail of all-natural ingredients that they missed the mark as well.  For myself, I have found that the simpler the better.

Next time you're in the shower, consider what you are putting on your head and what your skin is ingesting on a daily or weekly basis.  And if you have children, consider what is going into their new little sensitive bodies. Don't get me started on Johnson and Johnson's baby products.  Between them and Proctor & Gamble (which I call "Proctor & Gamble with your life"), I could go on an never-ending diatribe!

Be informed, not fooled!  True beauty is simpler than what society has made it out to be.

The bastardization of the word "Natural."

I'm going to do something very cliche here and I'm going to start off a piece of writing with a definition of a word. Natural (adj): existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind: carrots contain a natural antiseptic that fights bacteria | natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Okay, now that I've settled that I'd like to say how upset I am when companies treat people like they're idiots.  Not only with the advertising but with the very substance of the products themselves.

For Christmas I was given a basket of Lush cosmetics items from a very generous and thoughtful family member.  Now, I understand I am not the average consumer- I do a lot of research and so I understand more than others what is good and what is extremely NOT good.  I had heard of Lush before and by name alone was excited to receive such a lovely gift.  However the waft of intense "natural" fragrance when I opened the box alone was enough to tip me off- natural schmatural.  I put on the lip balm and it started stinging my lips and not in the good, normal way.  I took a closer whiff of one of the other items and I got an instant headache.  So I did the next thing I knew to do.  I read the ingredients on the labels.

On the back of what these people have the audacity to call "natural" is Sodium Laureth Sulfate topping the list (in case you don't know it is a very dangerous and highly irritation chemical.  Far from giving "healthy shining hair" and "beautiful skin", soaps and shampoos containing SLS can lead to direct damamge to the hair follicle, skin damage, permanent eye damage in children and liver toxicity) and then a slew of other multi-syllabic lab concoctions with several FD&C colors to boot.  All of this simply boils down to a lot of bad with a clean, fresh scent.  So, what the heck?!?!?!

I know natural means jack to companies nowadays, trying to get in good with the green movement, eco-friendly people, vegans, celiacs, and more aware consumers like my husband and I but these products were the grossest misinterpretation of natural I have seen in a long time.  They had this great brochure with pictures of bees and avocados and apples and that's all great, but when you put 12 known toxic chemicals and carcinogens in a lip balm, natural is not the first word that comes to mind.

I wish I could post the exact ingredients up but to be honest, I threw it away.  I could have given it back to the gifter or to a few friends I know that use Lush, but frankly, I couldn't sleep at night knowing someone was ingesting that through their skin by way of me.

While shopping at Whole Foods earlier, I walked past the aisles in the middle (I mostly shop on either side of the store) and I picked up things that boasted "all natural ingredients" or "wholesome" or "100% pure" only to find crap on the back label.  Take Johnson's Natural Nourishing Baby Shampoo in its creme colored bottle with green top- what's the first ingredient?  Sodium Laureth Sulfate.  Even the organic label is misleading.  I've said it 100 times but I'll say it again- an organic marshmallow is still a marshmallow.  Skippy Natural peanut butter is still a non-organic shit peanut butter.  Organic gummy bears with the word "nutritious" printed on their box never means they are not sugar bombs.

I hope more consumers wise up.  Marketers, advertisers and corporations have completely bastardized the natural world and people have to know this and respond.

My thoughts on some women's issues.

This is an article I wrote for a friend's website. Her website is to every topic what the "Truth" campaign is to smoking. Voila...

MAKING THE SHIFT

As a woman, I am very passionate about the topic of women’s health. Especially after I married my husband- a chef and health educator devoted to people’s health and vitality. He inspires me to always ask questions and dig deep to find truths. Admittedly, my way of life was not always based on the principles of a sound mind and sound body. I haphazardly allowed external influences to manipulate my thinking, basically leaving my health and my womanhood in the hands of society and others. It is only now- after many years of acquiring wisdom, insight from within and and making many lifestyle changes- that it has become clear how dangerous it is, especially for women, to leave the responsibility for their well being in the hands of others. Women are delicate. That is not to say we are weak for within the intricacies of our minds and the systems of our astral and causal bodies lies strength beyond what most of us have experienced. Each woman in the world is a reflection of Gaia Ma, the divine Earth Mother. Therefore we should treat ourselves and each other as such. It is a danger to our lives- as it is to all of life itself- to continue looking to others for how to navigate our health and our whole lives. If you look around you, the skinny sexy bombshell image is being shoved down our throats by a long-standing patriarchy. According to society, it is not okay to have women represent each and every point of a wide spectrum of the true meaning of beauty. In society, that wide spectrum is whittled down to one very small point on the spectrum- size 2, tall, long legs, perfectly coiffed long shiny voluminous hair, big boobs, a tight round toosh, hairless armpits that magically smell like flowers, legs and nether regions, flat sculpted abs, perfectly smooth velvety skin and big pouty pink or red lips. This has left no room for individuality and originality.

This has also left many women feeling short-changed and depressed. Say you were born a big-boned size 12, how could you ever compete with a Victoria’s Secret model or even make an attempt to look like one? The truth is, we don’t have to. Regardless of what many men and society would have us believe, beauty is a reflection of what is going on inside each person.

A very long time ago, a “plus-sized” older friend of mine looked me deeply in the eyes and said to me, “I DARE you to love your body and your self as you are NOW.” I had been complaining about my body and this was her response. I thought she was being preachy and hokey, but those words stayed with me and are still ringing in my ears now- 15 years later. Eventually, I turned to plastic surgery to try to fix the complexes and conflicts within. If you look around, you will see that many people have turned to the quick fix that plastic surgery delivers. But as I, and many others have and will find, it is a polish that eventually- if not quickly- loses its luster. I say, instead of looking to fix things physically, let us women go inside and tune back in to our intuition and divine insights. Only this way will we truly find lasting joy- not fleeting happiness- and true mental, physical and emotional health.

THE TRUTHS SHALL SET YOU FREE

Did you know that deodorants and anti-perspirants are very dangerous to your health? Most of them have large amounts of aluminum which is very detrimental to any human body. When it comes to health, I recommend going as natural as possible. I know it’s an inconvenience, but we were born with sweat glands in our armpits. That is our nature. When we fight nature (nature is easy), we come upon illness (dis-ease). So, we may have to sweat a little. Is it worth smearing toxic chemicals into your armpits every day thereby compromising the health of the lymph and other glands around your breasts? I personally don’t think so. I stopped using any mainstream deodorants a long time ago (Secret, Degree, etc) and opted for Tom’s or the natural crystal deodorants. Today, I don’t use any at all unless I know I am going to sweat profusely during a workout or spending a lot of time outside on a very hot day. How have I completely forsaken deodorants and anti-perspirants? Well, here’s the true “secret”. After only a few months of detoxing from the nasty chemical stuff (i.e. not using it even once so as to not shrink the lymph nodes, thereby allowing your body to get rid of toxins), your body odor is no longer offensive. But you must be patient and not expect to not smell in just a few days. It will take some time. It also depends on how clean your diet is. The cleaner it is, the quicker your body will come back to its natural odor without that daily dose of heavy toxic aluminums.

This next one isn’t so easy.

Bras. Every woman needs to wear one, right?

Wrong.

Have you ever heard of an indigenous woman with breast cancer? No, of course not. Because they let the girls hang out all day, free of any kind of constriction. And this is the idea I am shooting for. If you are large breasted and can’t get away with not wearing a bra or just don’t want your nipples to show, you can buy bras that go from little to maximum support that do not have underwires. Underwires seriously hinder lymphatic flow and your lymph lines are your life lines!

Beyond that, however, let’s look at the real purpose of bras. Beyond support for large breasts, they have NO PURPOSE. Victoria’s secret is that most women don’t need to wear bras. And those that need or want to, can definitely do it without spending $50+ on them. That’s her other dirty little secret. If you really look at it, lingerie is a billion dollar industry based on fake societal standards that continue to render women powerless. Super padded double push up lacey very sexy bras... you pay a lot out of your pocket for each of those adjectives and the simple truth is, those frills are hurting women. What is sexy about looking like every other woman? And look at the breast cancer rate in women today. One in every three women. Illnesses aren’t random occurrences. They have a cause. Even the smallest amount of research will unearth a whole lot of truth.

SOME INFORMATION TO CHEW ON

I had the pleasure to meet Daniel Vitalis- an amazing health educator and owner of Surthrival health supplements- when he was in Miami and we spoke about many topics. One of the things he touched upon was the issue of breast cancer and what could be done to avoid it. I had heard this before in a landmark talk he gave at a public library in Portland, Maine and I would like to share it with you. It is eye-opening, very thought-provoking and helped me form some more conclusions of my own to make better health decisions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHkgJX_ew24&feature=related

(The above link is only part 1 of his talk... parts 2-6 are also on You Tube and can be found to the right of the video of part 1. You can also go to www.templeoftheelemental.com and get the full 60 minute video if you enter your email address.)

SOME MORE THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

On the topic of women’s wellness, I would like to say a word about KFC. Yes, THAT KFC. The one with the “double down” sandwich- two greasy “chicken” breasts with “bacon” and melted pepper-jack “cheese” in the middle. Susan G. Komen, the leading breast cancer foundation for women, has teamed up with KFC to donate some cents on each dollar for every bucket of “chicken” sold. All that money on research, and the Susan G. Komen foundation has not yet made the connection that what you eat directly affects your health? The hormones in the “chicken” of KFC and other fast food places (and any “chicken” that isn’t grass fed and pasture raised for that matter) is full of hormones and other incredibly gnarly things that can add up to become serious illnesses including breast cancer. Does anyone understand this partnership between Susan G. Komen and KFC? Does anyone understand why it seems like companies and such WANT to make and keep people ill? This is a question that demands some kind of response.

PREVENTION

What I’m sure we all can understand is that prevention is essential. I mentioned breast cancer because it is a very serious disease among today’s women, but I believe prevention of any dis-ease is something we can all get behind. Treating any illness is very difficult and unfortunately usually not effective unless you get deep into the root cause. Let us not get sick so that we don’t have to scramble to figure out how to undo something. So that we don’t have to depend on pharmaceutical companies and allopathic doctors who don’t necessarily have our health in mind to solve the problem. We are all- EVERY ONE OF US- capable of taking care of our health through diet (clean food and water), exercise (at least 20 minutes every day), seeking knowledge and- when something perhaps gets a bit too overwhelming for our self to handle- seeking a responsible and knowledgeable health practitioner with a respect for not only our physical body but our emotional and spiritual bodies as well.

Let’s leave behind the images we have been fed of what a woman is supposed to look like. DARE TO LOVE YOUR SELF AND YOUR BODY.

NOW.

AS IT IS.

Not when you lose 10 lbs. Not when you break up with your boyfriend. Not when you get that new triple boost mascara.

The time is now.