Mmmmmm….coffee

Trader Joe's

I don’t know about you, but I have to start my morning with a hot cup of coffee.  There is something comforting about the familiar taste and smell, and it sure does give me an extra kick to get going!

I used to buy grocery store coffee, already ground, but my husband is picky about his coffee so our buying habits changed.  We bought a fancy brewing machine and now buy whole beans, and grind them ourselves.  We buy only medium roasts as the dark roasts are too bitter for us.  We like fair trade coffee, because we like paying workers a decent wage.  Then, we would only buy certain brands because we liked the flavor and price.  This meant that we had to stock up on coffee when we saw it – we couldn’t always find what we wanted otherwise!

Then, I read an article by Food Babe about what was really inside our coffee.  It really bummed me out that a beverage that I had assumed was pretty natural was clearly not.  It also complicated our coffee buying habits, as it gave us one more condition on our beans.

So, I was super excited to see this coffee at our Trader Joe’s!  It is not too bitter, organic, fairly traded, and the price can’t be beat – $15 for a giant can.

It matters how we spend our money.  We have to support retailers and products that comply with our ethics, to let companies know these issues matter.  Switch away from gross regular coffee and give pesticide-free coffee a try!

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Don't Have Time to Work Out? This One's For You.

Think you don’t have time for fitness?  You don’t need to have an hour at the gym, a cute workout outfit, and time for a shower.  If you are committed, you can work out whenever and wherever you are.  I promise!

After my second child began sleeping for longer stretches at night and I began to feel halfway human again, I wanted to make fitness a priority.  I bought Tracy Anderson workout videos and found websites that prescribed running schedules – how many days, and for how long.  I told myself that I was going to do a video or run at least four times a week, which seemed totally do-able at the time.

Ha.  “Seemed” is the keyword.

I was working from home 20 hours per week, with an infant and toddler at home with me full-time.  The hour I needed to do a workout video rarely happened – when the baby was sleeping the toddler was awake, or vice versa, or someone was hungry or dirty or needed something.  I couldn’t find a straight hour to myself to crank out the video, unless I got up at 5 a.m.  That wasn’t happening, considering I was still nursing my baby once or twice per night.  Sleep was too important.  The same was true for running – I tried to sneak off in the morning or evening to get in a long run, but it was really hard to find the right time to get away.  So, my fitness goals were put on the sideline.

Now that I have a preschooler and a first grader, I can’t say that my schedule is any less busy.  Yes, they do sleep a lot better, but my life hasn’t gained a lot of free time in the last five years.  Instead, I’ve just gotten smarter.  Instead of waiting for an hour-long break to fall into my lap, I cram fitness in where I can.  This has several advantages:

1.  My workouts vary a lot.  No “stuck in a rut” around here.

2.  I get workouts in, even on days when life seems nuts.

3.  A workout, even a short one, gives me a lift that makes me a better mom, a better wife, and a better person.

Here are some of my favorite “quick” workouts for days when it seems like I don’t have time.

  • Jump rope until I can’t jump any more.  It doesn’t take very long, and it is a fantastic cardio workout.
  • Run up and down a flight of stairs until I can’t do it any more.  I can do this anywhere – home, school, work, library, etc.
  • Park my car at the bottom of a steep hill and run up and down it until I can’t do it any more.
  • Inversions – handstands, headstands, forearm stands, backbends, etc
  • Carrying my children around the house with one arm while I put laundry away with the other.
  • Squats and lunges while on a headset phone

DIY Body Lotion

I used to use Suave Advanced Therapy body lotion religiously after I got out of the shower.  Take a second and click through to look at the ingredients.

Ew.  As someone who is very conscious about eating clean and living a healthy lifestyle, I could not believe I had been slathering those chemicals all over my body every night.  I trusted the bottle – “dermatologist tested”, “clinically proven” – buzz words that made me feel like it was a safe product to use.  

Nope.

Now, I make my own body lotion.  It is super easy, cheap, and it works amazingly well.  You all know I am a coconut oil fan, from my oil pulling post a few weeks ago.  This is yet another way that I use coconut oil every day!

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DIY Body Lotion

  • organic coconut oil
  • organic olive oil
  • jar or container
  • essential oils (your choice)

Heat the coconut oil until it is melted, which shouldn’t take very long.  Fill your container halfway with coconut oil, then fill the other half with olive oil.  Add a few drops of essential oil for scent (I like orange or lavender, depending on my mood).  Then, put the lid on your container and shake.  Leave the container on the countertop for several hours, shaking occasionally to keep everything mixed as the coconut oil sets back up.  (You can put the container in the refrigerator to fast forward this process, but be careful because the coconut oil can get TOO hard very quickly.)

Side note:  I have used plain coconut oil as a moisturizer before, and I love it, but have found it sometimes difficult to get out of the jar at room temperature.  Adding olive oil keeps the coconut oil softer, more like lotion.  I keep my jar in my bathroom and smooth it on post-shower every evening so that the oils can soak in all night long.

Here Comes the Sun, Baby!

I am beginning to think that MAYBE spring is actually almost here.  *holding breath*  Don’t get me wrong – I love winter.  I grew up in Michigan and have fond memories of snow, skiing, and mountains of white.  This winter has been exceptionally cold and brutal, however, and the kids and I are ready for some outside time that does not involve boots and snowpants.

Today’s forecast has our afternoon temperatures in the 60s.  I can’t wait!

Our family has particularly fair skin, so we do not go outside without sunscreen on.  It’s mandatory around here.

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Sunscreen is a tricky product, though – most brands are loaded with chemicals that have really scary side effects.  Check out the EWG 2013 Sunscreen Report, to see what I am talking about.

We have used the EWG database to find safe sunscreens for years.  The issue we ran into time and again was the mess involved with safe sunscreen – the zinc oxide tends to sit on top of the skin instead of being absorbed, and it gets.on.everything.  My kids would leave slimy white marks on everything, it seemed like.  This was really frustrating.

We have FINALLY found a brand that works for us.  We’ve been using The Honest Company Sunscreen (SPF 30) for two years now, and we are really happy.  First, it passes the EWG tests for toxicity, here.  Second, it rubs into my kids’ skin MUCH better than the other brands we tried.  Third, it is reasonably easy to find – Honest has begun selling their products at Costco and Buy Buy Baby, in addition to selling it through their website.

Lastly, there is an additional benefit to this sunscreen.  We spend a lot of time outside, but because of my aversion to chemicals we don’t wear bug repellent.  We do wear citronella wristbands, but I’ve found their efficacy is spotty.  This means that we are driven indoors by bugs on a regular basis, particularly when we are visiting northern Michigan, which is very woodsy.  We have noticed that the Honest Company sunscreen actually repels insects!  I don’t know what ingredient is doing the trick, but biting flies and mosquitoes do NOT bother us when we are wearing it.

Bonus, right?!

What's in your makeup and skin care products?

When I was became pregnant with my son, I was surprised when my OB/GYN told me  that I could no longer use some of the skin products that I had been using for years because they weren’t safe for my baby.   This was a time before I really questioned what I was putting into my body, and I assumed that all products that were sold to consumers were generally safe.   (Now I know better!)

I was super curious about safe options to use during pregnancy, so I began doing research into skin care and makeup ingredients.  In so doing, I found a real gem of  site: the Skin Deep database.  The Environmental Working Group maintains this fantastic resource, where you can search for almost any cosmetic or skin care product and see the risks associated with its ingredients.    I was SHOCKED when I read about the side effects and risks that were associated with the products in my bathroom cabinet.  I quit using products that I had used for years, cold turkey.

Then, when my son was born, EWG’s Skin Deep came through for me again!  My son was born with bright red hair and the palest skin I had ever seen – not kidding.  This kid needed sunscreen anytime he was outside.  Skin Deep allowed me to understand the sunscreen options I had for him and to choose something effective, but safe, for my new little buddy.

I continue to use Skin Deep anytime I hear of a new product I’d like to try out.  I absolutely recommend it to everyone – knowledge is power.  After all, if you are trying to eat well and keep your body healthy, shouldn’t you be aware of what you are rubbing all over your largest organ – your skin?

Life Balance

I thought I had a busy life before I had kids . . . HA.

Now, I feel like my life consists of a juggling act where I try to balance my life as a mom, my life as a wife, my life as a professional, and my life as, well, myself!  There is a constant give and take as I try to balance all of these different roles that I play and to do them all well.  This is a real challenge for me.  Every time I think I have a good balance, it seems something comes along to disrupt everything.

I find that lists are my friend, most of the time.  Every morning, I try to make a list of all the items I intend to get done that day.  The list includes grocery shopping, working on client files, a yoga class or run, lunch with my husband when I can squeeze it in, and something fun to do with my kids.  Some days, I check everything off the list and feel like a total rock star.  Other days, the list sits on my desk and feels like a naggy reminder of all the things I meant to do that day and didn’t manage to accomplish.

There are definitely days where I feel selfish, where I wish I could put myself before all of the other things that need to be done.  On those days I envy my little sister, who calls me to gripe about the fact that she hasn’t had a manicure in two months and HAS to take care of it immediately.  I don’t mention that my last manicure was probably over two years ago, because I have to work while my kids are at preschool and can’t justify hiring a babysitter so I can get my nails done.  On those days, I feel sour inside, and try to go for a very long run to bring me out of it.  Once I’ve pulled myself out of my funk, I remember that these days when my children are small are numbered – they won’t be here with me for long.  Full time school is just ahead, and they will grow up faster than I could ever dream.  Manicures are a part of my future, when my days of wiping noses and packing lunches are at an end.

In the end, I try to remember that I am doing the best I can on all fronts.  I’m never going to be perfect, but I’m trying my hardest.  I love that my children see that their mother can do lots of things – work, be fit and strong, and still be present to love them and their father.  I can sleep later.

DIY Brown Sugar Body Scrub

I confessed to my love of coconut oil in my post about oil pulling.  I was totally serious – I use coconut oil in many different ways daily.  One of my favorite ways to use coconut oil is also a huge cost saver.

In college, my roommate used Fresh Brown Sugar body scrub, and I was always super jealous.  I loved the smell and the way it worked, but I couldn’t justify the cost.  I also couldn’t get away with “borrowing” it as much as I wanted to, because that’s being a rude roommate.  🙂

That’s why I was so excited when I found this recipe by Sprout Wellness for a super simple and organic version.  I halve their recipe and use a flat Mason jar, which works perfectly to get every last bit out in the shower.

This is all you need!
This is all you need!

Organic Brown Sugar Body Scrub (by Sprout Wellness)

  • 1/2 cup organic demerara sugar (or other coarse brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp organic coconut oil
  • 1 tsp organic shredded coconut

Liquefy 1 tsp of coconut oil and pour into jar.  Add coconut and demerara sugar.  Put the jar lid on, and shake like crazy to mix the whole thing up.   Use in the shower anywhere you have rough or dry skin, after you have washed up using soap or body wash.  You want to leave the coconut oil on your skin to moisturize.

I promise, this is amazing!  It also makes a great DIY gift when you tie a pretty ribbon around the lid.