Take Care of You

I loved the part in the movie Pretty Woman when Julia Robert's character would hug her friend Kit De Luca and Kit would say, "Take care of you." I have always loved that line. To me it was like saying "be careful, I love you, take care of yourself" all combined. I wish I could use that line, but I don't think I could pull it off the way Kit and Julia could.

Genuinely caring for other people is an excellent quality. It is a quality I strive for. I don't like fake care. You know, the people who act like they care, asking you about yourself and then not caring one bit about the answer? Yeah, that kind of fake care. And of course there are the people who care so little they don't even bother asking or pretending. These people don't even care about acting like they care. A while back I was feeling hurt about the lack of interest some people were showing me. They seemed to have absolutely no interest in how I am, who I am, or what I do. I got all worked up, allowing the negative emotions to take over, when my husband said something I needed to hear.

"It doesn't matter."

Now normally, I would let a statement like this one to absolutely go all over me. I would fire back a quick, "OF COURSE IT MATTERS!" But it seems that with maturity come perspective and I have learned that he's right. Other people's interest in how I am, who I am, or what I do doesn't matter. I don't have to care about whether or not other people care. As long as I am mindful to take care of myself, I shouldn't put any energy into worrying about the fact that other people don't.

You see, when Kit says, "Take care of you" that is exactly what she's saying. Be sure to take care of yourself. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Don't expect anyone else to do it because they won't. The expectations that you are putting on others to care for you or about you will only leave you disappointed and hurt and bitching about it to your husband.

I recently stumbled upon an Instagram feed by a life coach who shared these 12 tips about self care. I love these. They are simple and true and and worth repeating as often as necessary.

  1. If it feels wrong, don't do it.
  2. Say exactly what you mean.
  3. Don't be a people pleaser.
  4. Trust your instincts.
  5. Never speak badly about yourself.
  6. Never give up on your dreams. 
  7. Don't be afraid to say, "No."
  8. Don't be afraid to say, "Yes."
  9. Be kind to yourself.
  10. Let go of what you can't control.
  11. Stay away from drama and negativity.
  12. LOVE.

I often speak about making healthier choices in life. These 12 steps do just that. Caring for yourself is always a good choice. Be good to yourself and maybe, if you're lucky, others will be too.

Sneak Peek: What's in your purse?

I think the type of purse a woman carries says a lot about her. Fancy, simple, ornate, big, little. Purses come in all shapes and sizes and so do women. But I believe it is what a woman carries inside her purse that tells you who she really is. Imagine meeting someone for the first time saying, "Okay, now, let me see inside your purse." I think you would immediate come to know a lot about who that person really is. A messy purse? Probably a messy person. A simple purse with little inside? Probably a minimalist. A purse filled with books and snacks and lip stick? Probably somebody just like me.

So here's a little peek inside my purse. My purse is my tool box. My medicine cabinet. My carryall. And carry all it does. I always have tissues and wet wipes, ibuprofen and Dramamine. The mom in me still keeps Band-Aids and Neosporin on hand and although I don't need them often, I'm sure glad I have them when I do. I always have a Chico Reusable Bag just in case I forget to bring my own bag into a store. Some healthy snacks like a bag of trail mix from Trader Joe's is always a good idea. And don't forget a book. I always have a book with me. Which means that recently I had to start carrying reading glasses everywhere I go because, you know, 44 is super fun.

I'm also a total sucker when it comes to having multiple cute bags to go inside my cute bag. Sunglasses are a must, which requires a super cute case to carry them in. My Beautycounter Lip Sheers and Lip Gloss go in the handmade BESOS ("kisses" in Spanish) pouch from GAIA for Women. And the little bit of cash I do carry it goes in a super cute Rebecca Minkoff change purse.

So what does this say about me? That I come prepared. That I easily get motion sickness and headaches. That my purse is so clean that I'm either a Type A personality, have OCD or maybe both. That I'm a reader who's eyes are going bad. That I never carry cash (I've often been known to be inconveniently without cash in the times that I need it most), but I have snacks for any hangry emergency that I might have. That I'm all about a cute monogram and love purchasing handmade items. And that I care a lot about our planet, safer beauty, and healthy choices.

Here are my favorites currently in my purse:

Stay tuned for more sneak peeks!

I didn't know what I didn't know.

Up until a few years ago, I blindly trusted that what was being sold to me was safe. This is not always the case. Due to a lack of regulation in the personal care industry, we are left to protect ourselves requiring us to be educated and vigilant about what is in the products that we are using. The amount of information out there can be overwhelming, so I always recommend taking it in small bites and give yourself permission to switch out your products slowly.
It's about progress, not perfection.  

A Home Tour: Our first REAL California home

After approximately 22 months of living in what I ever so lovingly referred to as our two sh*t boxes, I was MORE THAN READY to find a real California home. By that time it was quiet clear that we would be living in California permanently, which meant it was time to find a home and not a sh*t box to live in.

Side bar: Please don't misunderstand. I know and respect that for many, living in a condo IS living in a real home. My negative feelings towards those condos had EVERYTHING to do with the context of my life at the time. During that time in our married life, living in those two condos was less than a pleasant experience for our family for a variety of reasons.

How bad could it have been you ask? Well...We lived so close to our neighbors that on cool nights we couldn't sleep with our windows open. Why? Two reasons. 1). The neighbors often went outside to smoke right underneath our windows, and 2). On multiple occasions we could hear the couple next door...how should I say this...um...totally getting it on which included lots of...um...spanking. (Insert wide-eyed/shocked emoji here.) Maybe that's why they were always out smoking. So, yeah to say that I was ready to move was a total understatement.

I had made a new friend at a Mother's of Preschoolers event at a local church who happened to be a relator. It didn't take me long to request her services in helping to search out our next home. It was springtime which meant my husband wasn't available to find the home with me. He actually gave me full permission to pick out the house. I believe his exact words were, "Whatever you want, honey. You go pick it out. I'll like whatever you pick out." (This tidbit will be important to the story later.)

So that's exactly what I did. Kirsten and her husband, Jon, did an excellent job showing us lots of nice homes. I knew which one would be ours the first time I saw it. It checked off lots of boxes, was at the right price, in a neighborhood that seemed nice, so we jumped in with both feet and made an offer.

I will never forget getting the call from Jon while sitting in Chili's.

Jon: I have great news! They accepted your offer!

Me: That's awesome! No counter or anything? Wow!

Jon: There's just one thing. Did you know about the drug bust that happened in that neighborhood?

(Insert the sound of a needle scrapping across a record.)

Me: Um...no, I don't think so. What drug bust? Like what kind of drugs? Like hardcore drugs?

(While my parents and our boys sat around us trying not to eavesdrop, Derek was in my ear saying, "Drug bust? We can't move in a neighborhood filled with drugs! We can't have people knocking on our door asking for drugs! I can't leave you and the boys alone in a druggy neighborhood!")

Jon: There was a guy growing marijuana in a house. He wasn't living in the house, just growing weed. It was a huge bust. Something like 3 million dollars worth of weed.

Now let me pause for another moment and give you some context for the story. This neighborhood is one of the newer ones in the valley that we live in. It is filled with young families, a pretty little park, and a local school within walking distance. There have been several national commercials shot in our neighborhood because it basically looks like Anywhere, U.S.A. This neighborhood was NOT a place where you would expect 3 million dollars worth of weed to be growing.

Me: Wow. Um...okay. So where in the neighborhood did it happen?

Jon: Next door.

Obviously that was not the answer we were hoping for, that was a little too close for comfort. Derek was in my ear saying something along the lines of "not good" but my response to Jon might surprise you.

Me: Well, he's in prison and the weed is gone, so it's all good! Tell them we have a deal!

My husband thought I had lost my mind.

A month later we were moving in next door to the pot house. When meeting new friends in the neighborhood we were often introduce as "the people who bought the house next door to the drug bust." Yep, that was us. It was a mantle we wore with feigned ignorance and I decorated that place from top to bottom with pride!

Bentley's bedroom...

My little, green laundry room...

Our back patio addition...

I have written about that house several time on this blog (which you can find by clicking on the label, HOMES. You find my decorating, our remodeling of the kitchen and backyard patio addition.) It was a good little house that we enjoyed for several year until, well, we didn't anymore. Remember that part where my husband said, "I'll like whatever you pick." Well...he didn't. Five years later we were on the hunt for a new house.

What's all of the BPA buzz about?

My friend Erin was the first to tell me about BPA. I think it was mentioned in a casual conversation about healthier choices. She said something along the lines of, "I've been trying to find cans without BPA..." And I'm sure I thought something along the lines of, "BP...what? What are you talking about? And cans? What's wrong with cans?"

A lot of conversations about healthier choices with our dear friend Erin usually start this way. She has always been ahead of the rest of us (we all freely admit it) when it comes to being informed about and choosing to make healthier choices. Her understanding of BPA and why it's bad for us was no exception. I don't remember all of what was discussed during our BPA conversation, but I do know if Erin says to stay away from it, well that was exactly what I was going to do.

Maybe you've heard about BPA or maybe you're totally clueless like I was. Either way, here's a little cheat sheet to make it a little easier to understand.

What is BPA?

From Medical News Today: "Bisphenol A, often known as BPA is a chemical found in hard plastics and the coatings of food and drinks cans which can behave in a similar way to estrogen and other hormones in the human body. BPA is used to make many products, including water bottles, baby bottles, dental fillings and sealants, dental devices, medical devices, eyeglass lenses, DVDs and CDs, household electronic and sports equipment. BPA can also be found in epoxy resins which is used as coatings inside food and drinks cans."

Why is BPA bad for me?

Some studies done in animals have shown BPA to be a endocrine disrupter, effects on the behavior babies and young children, possible effects on the brain, cancer risk from exposure, heart problems, and possible connections to obesity, diabetes, and ADHD. Here's a great article that I'm pretty sure Erin sent me. She's good like that. 

How does BPA get into my body?

According the the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure. Bisphenol A can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles."

If the primary source of exposure is what I'm eating out of, like cans and water bottles, how do I avoid it?

Manufacturers are getting better about creating BPA-free products. Look for stickers on baby and water bottles that say "BPA-free." Good thing to remember: Plastics that are marked with a 3 or 7 recycle code may be made with BPA. Take the time to throw out your questionable water bottles and replace them with BPA-free bottles, or better yet with glass ones that are perfect for adding essential oils. (Side note: never add essential oils to plastic bottles, BPA-free or otherwise.)

Refraining from eating foods stored in cans would be ideal, but not all that practical sometimes. Start checking the labels. Look for cans that say, "Non-BPA Lining." When I first found out about BPA, the only place I could find BPA-free cans was at Whole Foods. Now I am able to find some at my local grocery store chain. For example, one of the cans in the picture above is Rotel, a staple in the Freeman household. (You just can't make decent queso without it.) I was so excited to see that their cans are BPA-free. They are out there, you just have to look.

What have you done to reduce BPA in your house?

  • I have gotten rid of all of our plastic food containers. I purchased this Pyrex set that are glass with BPA-free lids.
  • All of our water bottles are primarily glass or metal, with a few plastic BPA-free. Our favorites are Swell and Hydro Flask. I love my glass water bottle from Lifefactory, a company that also make glass baby bottles and stemless wine glasses that we love.
  • I am getting better and better about paying attention to the canned foods that I buy, trying my best to buy only BPA-free cans. It isn't always possible. Sometimes it just is what it is. (The tuna I just had for lunch might have been wild caught and dolphin safe but was not BPA-free.) But knowing what I know, I have stopped buying as many canned foods as I did before. Once you know you can't unknow...

But I've been eating out of cans lined with BPA for decades!

The good news is that a study done by the Breast Cancer Fund found that living off of a fresh food diet for three days significantly reduced the levels of BPA in both children and adults. Co-author Connie Engel, program coordinator with Breast Cancer Fund, said, "The study should serve as a wake-up call to industry and government to enact big-picture solutions that eliminate harmful chemicals from food packaging and protect public health."

Yeah, what Connie said.

"Ok Google...How do I get rid of neck wrinkles?"

Yep. I just googled, "How to get rid of neck wrinkles." Sigh.

I took my mom to barre class last week (she did awesome by the way) and one of my friends said, "This is your mom? Oh my goodness...look at that skin!" This isn't the first time I've heard this. The women on my mother's side of the family have great skin that I was lucky enough to inherit. However, there's another thing I developed from all of those same women, a big ol' line across my neck. Mine arrived like clockwork around the time I turned 40 and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Hence the reason I've recently found myself reading articles that throw out depressing/disgusting terms like "turkey neck" and "hanging jowls."

The Health Benefits of Bath Time

As if you need me to tell you the benefits of some time in the tub! I love me some tub time. It's one of my favorite parts of the day. A good book and a hot bath is hard to beat.

When I read this article the other day that shares claims that hot baths have the same benefits as working out for an hour, well I was pretty excited. Does a hot bath at 104 temperature really have the same benefits as exercising for an hour? The jury is still out on that one, but we do know that there are many other health benefits from spending time in the tub. Burning calories, reducing pain and inflammation, helping sooth sore muscles, stress relief, help you sleep better...the list is long, but I have discovered a few products that you can add to your tub to make your bath time even more beneficial.

What I Learned Last Year (Even Though Last Year Ended Three Months Ago)

I'm not usually procrastinator, but I'm well over two months late in posting this. More like three. I have no good excuse as to why my yearly reflection required three months of additional, well, reflection. I have friends that are professional procrastinators. No really, they would be the first to tell you how good they are at it. Their procrastination skills really are quiet impressive. My procrastinating friends would be proud that I too have stumbled upon something worth procrastinating about. But I digress...

10 Things I Learned in 2016:

Safer Beauty: What's In Your Hair Color?

"Being a girl is a lot of damn work," I told Derek.

"It really is," he replied in total agreement. I had just finished coloring my hair ALL BY MYSELF and I was exhausted. I had colored my hair and what hair I wasn't coloring I was plucking and/or completely removing, covering my body in lotions and anti aging creams and serums. A lot of damn work, yes, but also totally worth it.

I haven't colored my own hair since college. All it takes is turning your hair an unattractive shade of orange one time to make it a bad idea. But college is a time when you're willing to take all kinds of chances, including those involving hair color.

I started turning gray several years ago and have been coloring my hair every six weeks ever since. And every six weeks I sit in the stylist chair feeling light headed from the color soaking into my head. I usually left the salon feeling high, and not in a good way. I don't know much, but I know that can't be good for you.

Minimizing My Life: No Room for Luck

This morning, as my swimmer who has a meet today walked out the door, I wished him good luck. Seemed appropriate on St. Patrick's Day. Wishing someone luck. Good luck. The best of luck.

Luck seems to be a big deal in our house. Just the other day my car told me that one of my tires was low. The dealership told me there was a nail in my tire and I would need a new tire that would cost me $285. Ten minutes later after driving with a leaky tire to the local mom-and-pop shop down the street, I was told they could patch it for a quick 15 bucks. When I called Derek to tell him he said, "Good. We needed some good luck." Whenever Derek leaves for a tournament, I always wish him good luck before he leaves. Seems like a jinx if I don't. Yesterday as we sat outside near the pool on a beautiful afternoon in sunny California, Derek and I both mentioned how lucky we are to live here.

We seem to talk a lot about luck, but do we even know what it really is?

Safer Beauty: Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Once your eyes have been opened to the importance of using safer beauty products, there's no way to close them. You start to question everything you put on your skin. Is this deodorant okay? What about my perfume? What about my hair color? How about my nail polish? Is that okay?

Here's the truth: Because of lack of regulations, those products you use every day don't have to disclose their ingredients, don't have to be transparent, and are getting away with using potentially harmful and toxic ingredients because there is no one telling them not to. That means you have to do the work. You have to be your own researcher, educating yourself, making sure you understand what exactly is in the products you are using.  

But nail polish? What could possibly be wrong with nail polish? I mean, it's just on your nails. You don't have to worry about what you put on your nails, right? Wrong.

My Pretty Skin Juice

My mom would always tell me, "Drink your milk. It'll make you pretty." I don't know if the milk worked or not, but I drank it anyway. Nowadays I don't drink milk every night at dinner like I used to. (Wine every night for dinner? Yes. Milk? Not so much.) So instead I have tried my best to eat and drink lots of other things to make me pretty. My Pretty Skin Juice is one of them.

Stressors, both internally and externally, effect our skin in a big way. What you eat and drink, medications that you take, pollution, UV rays, harsh climate changes, all have consequences when it comes to our skin. Only 20% of aging is due to genetic factors. That means that 80% is under our control. (Being a person who likes being in control - yes, I own that flaw proudly - I love this percentage!) Making sure we were sun protection every day, having a regular skin care routine, using safer and highly effective products from companies like Beautycounter, and consuming skin-friendly foods like those in my Pretty Skin Juice can make a huge difference.

Why Juice?

My girlfriends and I just had this discussion. What's the difference between juicing and just throwing everything into a blender?

Juicing: If you aren't a fan of pulp or thick drinks, this is the way to go. Juicing removes all of that and because it is less dense, it makes it easier for your body to absorb all of the nutrients. You get an instant infusion of vitamins and minerals from whole, raw vegetables. If there's a negative it would be that juicing does require a lot of produce to make enough juice to drink. Juicing also makes it easier for you to consume a large quantity of fruits and veggies. Lets be real, none of us are getting the recommended amount that we all need. Juicing makes it easier to do that.

Blending: This is definitely the easier of the two choices when it comes to cleanup. When throwing everything into the blender, your smoothies will be fiber-filled for sure. This is great for making you fuller for longer. Because you are using the whole fruit and vegetables you will make more and be able to put less into your smoothie (unless you're planning on passing them out to all the neighbors.)

You can't go wrong with either. I do both making my Go-To Protein Smoothie in my blender and my Detox Green Juice with my juicer. I have boards on Pinterest for both juicing and smoothies.

Pretty Skin Juice

Much like my Detox Green Juice, this is very easy to make. You will need the following:

  • 8-10 whole carrots (soak in water for 30 minutes prior to juicing)
  • 2 handfuls of organic spinach
  • 2 golden apples
  • 1 pound fresh/frozen cranberries (if frozen, thaw before juicing)
Place all in your juicer. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

How do these ingredients make your skin pretty?

CarrotsCarrots have beta-carotene that is a skin-friendly ingredients that converts into vitamin A inside human body. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that attacks free radicals which prevent signs of aging like wrinkles and uneven skin tone.

Spinach: Green leafy vegetables are great for your skin. Contains vitamins C, E, and A that have antioxidants that are great for your skin. Antioxidants help fight free radicals and all kinds of skin issues like acne, sun protection, anti-aging, skin repair and complexion improvement.

Apples: Contains toning abilities. Also rich in pectin which helps prevent acne.

Cranberries: Cranberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit. They also contain a lot of vitamin C which is important in preventing and reversing the signs of aging. Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen which helps replace dead skin cells and gives our skin strength and elasticity.

Because cleaning my juicer can be a pain, I often make big batches of juice while I have it out. My two favorites (Detox and Pretty Skin) are so yummy and good for you, they don't last very long!

Minimizing My Life: Giving Up Being Busy

As I've practiced minimizing my life, I have taken so much pleasure in less. Through the process I have discovered embracing self-care. I no longer feel even the slightest bit of guilt taking time to do things for myself. So for Lent this year, I am giving up being busy. I am freeing myself from any guilt associated with intentionally inserting peace into my daily routine.

Finding peaceful moments to quiet your mind and treat yourself to something enjoyable is essential in life. It's the healthiest and smartest thing you can do for yourself. I'm so tired of hearing about how busy everyone is. It's like this badge of honor that people wear proudly. "Oh, I'm just soooooo busy!" Why is that? Why is everyone so proud about being so busy? Sure, our calendars are full and our to-do lists are long, but that doesn't mean that we have to be busy. The word "busy" is negative. It implies that you have no room for the things that you enjoy. Lamenting about how busy you are implies that you have little time for joy. It's okay to not be busy. It's okay to slow down and have less to do. It's okay to say no to something that doesn't bring you joy in order to participate in something that does.

I don't want "busy" in my life. I want activities and moments and people who will bring joy and positivity, healthy and happiness. Here are a few of the things that bring those things into my life:

  1. Taking a hot baths with epsom salts and essentials oils. Including a good book and this is absolutely the best way to end my day. Sacred tub time is a must for me.
  2. Applying a face masks 2/3 times a week like these from Beautycounter. Putting a mask on your face is 10 minutes of slowing down. Masks that will detox, brighten, and plump your skin are always a treat. And of course I love Beautycounter because I know that these masks are both safe and highly effective.
  3. Escaping with an audio book while cleaning the house and folding laundry. People wonder how I find the time to read. One of the ways I do it is listening to audio books through Audible. Makes time fly by while sitting in carpool line and walking 18 holes on the golf course. 
  4. Putting my favorite scent in a diffuser every morning. Diffusing essential oils have replaced all of the candles in my house. I have always loved a good smelling candle, but I no longer trust the fragrances that they use. Instead, I scent my home with essential oils that not only make my house smell good but also give added health benefits.
  5. Giving myself a mani + pedi with a safer, non-toxic polish like these from Côte. (More about safer nail polish choices in a blog post coming soon.)
  6. Meditating. Breathing deep, letting go of all negative thoughts and energy, and focusing on what God wants me to hear. I need to be doing this twice a day but I'm good to do it once. There are different apps out there to help you with your meditation. I personally like Calm.
  7. Continuing my Pilates and Barre workout routine. Pilates has been a lifesaver for me. It has made me such a healthier person and has absolutely changed my life. And for a person who used to drone on about how much I hated working out, this is a HUGE statement.
  8. Reading an interesting article that will expand your view of the world. At the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to start reading The New Yorker. I'm loving my subscription more than I ever thought I would.
  9. Making my own latte with a good frothier and just...sit. Peace can often be found in a latte mug and a quiet room. This can be a challenge when we are so used to being on the go all of the time, but nothing makes me happier than when I cozy up in my favorite chair with a blanket and a good book in one hand a my homemade latte in the other.
Perhaps your list looks a little different than mine. Maybe you found a few thing on mine that you want to add to yours. Whatever your list looks like, I hope that you will take busy out of your life and care for yourself with the things that bring you joy. 

The Nerdy Girl Who Lives Inside

My father took me to the Clinique counter when I turned 13. Not my mother. My father. He had been told by my grandmother that he should do this, that he needed to to this for me when I turned 13. That as a young lady I needed to know the correct way to wear makeup and care for my skin. I wasn't privy to their conversation, but knowing my grandmother I'm guessing there was very little discussion about the matter. She was telling him to do it and therefore it had to be done.

He made a weekend out of it. By that time, my parents had been divorced for close to four years so it was only my father and I who headed south to Ft. Worth for the weekend. I can't remember much about what all we did, can't remember all of the details (these are the moments I wish I had been better about keeping a diary), but I can remember the Clinique counter visit as clear as day.

With my father awkwardly hovering, I remember the lady showing me the three steps to clean my face: the big yellow cleansing bar that slid in and out of the mint green tunnel, the tall glass bottle filled with pink liquid that I was to put onto fancy cotton pads, and finally the creamy jar of butter yellow moisturizer. She explained in detail how I was to follow this routine morning and night to keep my skin young and beautiful. I listened intently and vowed I would.

Then came the make up. She showed me how to apply blush by drawing a C from my cheek bone to my temple and how to use my ring finger to apply a little foundation underneath my eyes for coverage. She allowed me to apply blue eye shadow (it was the 80's after all) followed by liquid eyeliner that was applied carefully with a tiny brush. Each product seemed so pretty and shiny and I loved all of it. The packaging was so pretty I remember not wanting the silver cases of the eye shadow getting scratched. They were prized possessions.

I wish you could see the transition when you look at my middle school year books but it's just not there. There was no evidence of an ugly-duckling-into-a-swan type of transformation. If the pics weren't black and white I'm sure you would see the sudden onset of blue eyeshadow but that would be about it. Next to most of my yearbook photos I have words written like "ugly" and "gross" leaving no doubt about how I felt about myself during my middle school years. If you look closely enough at the above picture you can see a faint "X" that I had made over my own face. It makes me sad for the girl I was then.

I am confident enough now to share. I was the girl that wanted nothing more than to be pretty and popular and loved by all the boys but struggled to overcome her bad hair and nerdy book club participant status. I was a pitiful 80's cliché. I believed that one day there would be a boy who would fight for my honor like in "Karate Kid" and find me in his red Porsche like in "Sixteen Candles." I'm sure I'm not the only girl who had those dreams.

In truth I think my father and grandmother had hoped that taking me to the Clinique counter would deliver me from my unpolished ways. But nerd genes run deep and I had an abundance. A three-step skin routine wasn't making that disappear any time soon. Throughout middle school I had a combination of braces, glasses, a bad perm, and bangs that I had no idea what to do with. I wore trendy 80's clothing that did nothing for me. I had no skills when it came to the beauty and was livin' on a prayer that I would eventually grow out of the awkwardness.

Perhaps this is why I still love beauty products so much. Back in 1986 I put a lot of hope into those Clinique products. It was a lot of pressure to put on a big bar of yellow soap and some blue eyeshadow. Clinique did nothing more than teach me to have a good skin care routine, and for that I am grateful. Growing out of the rest of it required more time than I ever realized.

It wasn't until I was in my forties, only over the last four years, that I finally feel like I have come into myself. 90% loving myself exactly the way I am and 10% not giving a shit. Some days those numbers are reversed, but either way it's okay. I like me. My husband seems to like me although he showed up in an old white BMW instead of the red Porsche.

But sometimes, late at night after I've finished washing my face and take my contacts out and put on my glasses, that middle school girl reappears. Sometimes I see her in my own boys as they go through their early teen years. She occasionally shows up on bad hair days or in an unflattering picture that I didn't know was being taken. No one else notices her but she's there all the same. I think she always will be.

Hot and Sweaty for the Sweat Shack

I like to think of myself as an early adopter for healthier choices. When I hear of a healthy, new idea it's not long before I'm trying it out for myself. I am always willing to give anything healthy a try. I see it as having nothing to lose and everything to gain.

After reading about the benefits of infrared saunas, hearing a girlfriend talk about how much she loved it, and seeing a short segment about it on the news, I knew I'd better hurry up. I didn't want to be behind in making the latest healthier change. I headed down the street to the Organic Sweat Shack.

Saunas have been around forever. Growing up in the 70's, I remember my dad having a sauna in our garage. The big yellow box with a door and a tiny window near the top freaked me out. Why would anyone willingly sit in there? I always feared getting trapped inside, not being able to get out. When I was older and went to a spa with a steam sauna I hated every minute of it. The small room and the hot steam made me feel like I was suffocating. I hated it.

My girlfriend promised me that an infrared sauna experience would be different. The list of health benefits from spending 30 minutes in an infrared sauna was long enough to encourage me to try:
  • sweating out toxins (This reason alone was enough for me to give it a try.)
  • heavy metal detoxification (Yes, please.)
  • increase in collagen production, skin tone and softness (Who doesn't want that?)
  • fat burning/weight loss (No brainer!)
  • relieves muscle tension and fatigue (That's always a good thing.)
  • and stress relief... just to name a few!
Clearly I needed to get over my sauna issues and go get in the box.

I loved my experience at the Organic Sweat Shack. I decided to go with The Clear Skin Sweat. The saunas use infrared heat as well as chromotherapy which is the science of using color to adjusts our body vibrations, each color possessing frequencies that help balance your body. My color was blue which promotes relaxation and calm. They also use Dr. Mercola's essential oils as part of the experience. But before I could go in, I had to read up on sweat etiquette.

Then I was taken behind one of the curtains where the infrared boxes were hidden. I stripped down to my birthday suit per the sweat etiquette, grabbed my book (fearing I would get bored sitting there for 30 minutes), left social media and the outside world behind, and headed in.

Turns out the calming blue light might be awesome for chilling out but is not good for reading. I was forced to just sit and relax and listen to the gentle music which was a VERY good thing. It dawned on me while sitting there that I could combine my daily meditation with my sauna experience so that's exactly what I did. It was a little strange at first, sitting there naked trying to mediate, but I quickly moved past the awkwardness and allowed myself to be in the moment.

I totally understand now how people are getting hooked doing this. I loved being warm and cozy in my little box. I didn't feel trapped or claustrophobic at all. I didn't start sweating until about half way through, but I'm not a big sweater to being with. After my 30 minutes were up, I felt completely relaxed and would have stayed in there longer if I could.

Leaving the Organic Sweat Shack, I felt like I had just had a full body massage, not a deep-tissue kind but the kind that leaves you completely relaxed and at peace. For that reason alone I will definitely be going back, anxious to try other choices from the Shack Menu with different colors and different essential oils. I will be curious to see if I notice more benefits by making this a regular part of my routine.

Please note that I am not paid by companies or businesses to review their products or services. This is all me and my real opinions. I promise to tell you exactly what I think and if it's worth your time and money. I got you.

Stephenie's Detox Green Juice

While walking around a local farmer's market with my husband, the two of us enjoying a fresh cold-pressed juice, I said something along the lines of, "If I had a juicer I'd make fresh juice all of the time!"

A week later on Mother's Day I opened my very own juicer proving that sometimes husbands actually listen. (However he never seems to be listening when I mention the diamond earrings or whatever expensive handbag I'm currently coveting, but I digress...) I do love my juicer and I have learned to make juice in batches to cut down on the cleaning. Best of all, I'm learning to make healthy juices that are damn tasty!

I'm not always the best about making sure I am eating my daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Juicing makes it easy. I get all of the unprocessed nutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that help remove free radicals that are responsible for aging, tissue damage, and disease. (Juicing does remove the fiber which has important health benefits as well, so I would never recommend only getting your fruits and veggies through juicing.)

My Detox Green Juice

This juice is an easy one to make. You will need the following:

  • 2 Green Apples, cut into quarters 
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, stem removed
  • 1 Cucumber, peeled
  • A handful of Spinach
  • 2 stalks of Celery
  • 1/2 lemon, peeled

ApplesContain phytonutrients and antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Green Bell Pepper: An excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C and vitamin B6, a very good source of folate, vitamin E, vitamin B2, and potassium.

Cucumber: Very hydrating, helps flush out toxins, contains vitamins A, B, C which boosts immunity and gives you energy, and has skin-friendly mineral like magnesium, potassium, and silicon.

Spinach: Hello Super Food! High in niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, folatecalcium, iron, and magnesium.

Celery: Has antioxidants that act as anti-inflammatories, has a diuretic effect to reduce bloating and boost digestion, helps to protect the liver and prevent ulcers.

Lemon: Balances your pH, contains potassium, vitamin C, aids in digestion and has been known to support weight loss. 

What I love about juicing is that you can put the whole fruit or juicing in with very little prep. Wash everything, of course, and then just start adding to your juicer. 

You will end up with lots of pulp. I wish there was something good to do with it, and perhaps there is, but I always just throw it away. I use these bottles from Bormioli Rocco. Two batches of the above recipe will make about 20 ounces, perfect for storing some and drinking the rest. 

Don't have a juicer? Don't let that stop you! You could also make a whole fruit version of this recipe if you have a strong blender (think Vitamix, which I also love.) Just be sure to remove all stems, cores, peels/skins, seeds, etc. before blending. I use the Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer and although it can be a pain to clean, I do love it.

And I really love my green juice.

Minimizing My Life: How I Hygge

Let me paint the picture for you: You are in your comfiest clothes (you know the ones that make you happy to put on after a long day), sitting in a cozy spot in your home, a candle lit nearby, a hot cup of tea in your hand and a great book in your lap. You are at total peace and you feel a warm sense of happiness. That is hygee.

Hygee, pronounced hue-gah, is the Danish concept of coziness. It's the "art of creating warmth, comfort, and wellbeing." Hygee is about slowing down and enjoying life's simple pleasures. When you hygge, you enjoy the moment without worry or stress or pressure to do anything other than being yourself. I would venture to guess that you could use more hygee in your life. We all could. 

Part of the process of minimizing your life includes creating an environment that is simple. That being said, minimizing your life doesn't require having to live without. You would not enter my home and ever think I'm living without. Quite the opposite. I have plenty of stuff even after minimizing my home. The difference is that after minimizing, my home is now filled with only quality items that serve a purpose and bring me or my family happiness. When you hygee your home, you create a home that is a cozy reflection of who you are. 

Simplicity is the name of the hygee game. Make time to slow down, unplug, and find peace in spending time with the people and activities that you love the most. I used to feel guilty when I would indulge in a good book on the couch with a latte in my favorite mug instead of doing something that the world deems productive. How could I do such a thing when there is so much else to be done? There's always laundry piling up and the bathroom toilets are gross and there are emails I need to response to. I could let all of those things dominate my time, fill up every inch of my life, maximize my time, but I don't. I can't. 

Similar to meditation, hygge gives you an opportunity to slow down and focus on being in the moment. Just like when I meditate, hygge centers me. It calms me and allows me to relax and reconnect with myself which always helps be connect better to others. How could you ever feel guilty about that? My most favorite thing is to get under a cozy blanket, turn everything else off, put my phone away, and read. That is my version of hygee. Creating hygge for yourself is easy.

Start with the following:
  • Find a cozy spot in your home. A chair or couch that's comfortable. Grab a cozy blanket.
  • Turn off any overhead lights and turn on lamps instead. 
  • Light a non-toxic candle and put a calming essential oil in your diffuser.
  • Put your phone away. No excuses. Taking a break from social media and technology in general is a must.
  • Make your favorite cup of coffee or hot tea.
  • Grab that magazine that you've been meaning to read or that book that you've been dying to finish.
  • You don't have to hygge alone. Hygge with a friend or loved one. Hygge doesn't have to be a solitary activity.
I have been hygee-ing for a long time except I always called it "being lazy." Now thanks to the Danes I have a better name for it and recognize that it isn't "being lazy" at all. Adding hygee to your life is beneficial, important, and necessary. Hygee minimizes the chaos and negative noise that fills up our lives. Give yourself permission to live simpler, find peace and savor the moment.   

Searching for a Safe, Effective, Natural Deodorant

If I smell it's not my fault. Not really. I've been trying out new deodorants and it's been...well, it's been a somewhat stinky process.

My old deodorant, the brand I had used forever, was working just fine. The only problem was my old, have used it forever deodorant contained potentially toxic ingredients like aluminum, parabens, propylene glycol, triclosan, and phtalates. What are those you ask? Well...

  • Aluminum is linked to breast cancer in women, prostate cancer, and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease
  • Parabens can disrupt our hormonal balance, which can lead to things like early puberty in children and an increased risk of certain cancers. It is also linked to birth defects and organ toxicity.
  • Propylene Glycol can cause damage to the central nervous system, liver, and heart.
  • Triclosan is classified as a pesticide by the FDA as a probable carcinogen by the EPA.
  • Phtalates are linked to a higher risk of birth defects, may disrupt hormone receptors, and increase the likelihood of cell mutation.

I started searching for a deodorant for myself and my family that had none of the above. A deodorant that was both safe and effective. It hasn't been the easiest switch I've made when it comes to safer beauty. There's definitely been some trial and error. Here are five deodorants that I've tried so far. I broke my critique down into simple pros and cons for you. Please note: I am not a health care or natural deodorant specialist. These are my personal experiences with each of these deodorants. You might have totally different experience so take all of my opinions as they are and be sure to try them all for yourself.

Pros: I liked the smell of this one and it kept my B.O. at bay. Liked that it was a roll on. It is also gluten-free, certified vegan and cruelty-free. Antiperspirant. Made in the U.S.A.

Cons: It was difficult to put on. It was so dry that it crumbled when I drug across my skin. On the packaging It does recommend holding it "momentarily to skin to soften on contact with body heat." 

Notes: Schmidt's has several scents made with natural essential oils. Also comes unscented. They have jars if you prefer that to roll ons. Bought this one for my husband (who has sensitive pits like I do) in the Cedarwood + Juniper scent and he has liked it. Has continued to use it and wants me to order more. 

Pros: Chose to go with "unscented" for this one. Like the it was a stick/roll on. Also cruelty-free.

Cons: Contains baking soda which I have discovered irritates my skin and caused a little bit of a rash (which Beautycounter's Cleansing Balm helped clear up right away.) Was so drying that it made my arm pits itch. I woke myself up in the middle of the night scratching under my arms.

Note: Several friends on Facebook highly recommended this one but in the jar. Does come in several scents. 

Pros: Liked the citrus smell. Works well when working out. Don't feel the need to reapply during the day. Also cruelty-free.

Cons: A little on the pricey side. Have to use your finger to apply which took a little getting used to but really isn't that big of a deal. Irritated my skin on the days I shaved under my arms which is basically every day. I have found for me the key is to use less to make it less drying. 

Pros: Cheap and easy to make. Free of baking soda. Includes corn starch, coconut oil, and essential oils. Very hydrating thanks to the coconut oil. Soothing. Makes plenty, almost too much.

Cons: Keeps the stink away only part of the day. Would not recommend if you have major perspiration problems. Needs to be reapplied, especially on hot days or after activity where you've been sweating. I only use this if I'm staying home all day, sitting on the couch with a good book. 

Pros: Easy to spray on. Nice lavender vanilla scent. Didn't irritate my ski. Contains witch hazel and organic tea tree oil that conditions skin. Didn't make my pits itch which is always a good thing.

Cons: This is not an antiperspirant, so wouldn't work for heavy sweaters. If I've had an active day I have to reapply. Takes about 5-6 sprays to do the job. 

Even thought I had some success with each of these, my quest continues. There are other brands I want to try, other scents, etc. Stay tuned...just don't be surprised if I'm still a little stinky in the mean time.