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It may be that you already traveled to some sunny, exotic locale during the winter holidays, or for “spring break” if you have kids. So yes, I should probably post my sunscreen picks a bit earlier in the year. But as they say, better late than never!

As I wrote up the post on our April trip to Tulum, Mexico I realized I hadn’t shared my sun protection product recommendations. I’m a big fan of applying suncreen every single day of the year–rain or shine, at least to the face. When you consider that the backs of the hands and decolletage are the first places to show signs of aging, those of us in age denial would be wise to cover those areas with sunblock as well.

I recently tried a mineral powder based product with an SPF 30+. I figured that at my age, it probably looks more youthful to cover any sun damage and have the skin looking flawless and age/sun spot-free. However, I thought the heavy layer of powder, despite being natural, made me feel too made up, which in turn made me feel older. So I switched back to my tinted sunscreens. They’re light, moisturizing and the sheerness makes me feel like I’m not trying to cover up anything (although if I could find a natural way to get rid of my age spots, I’d do it in a heartbeat).

I think Andalou Naturals and Juice Beauty make the best, reasonably-priced, all-natural tinted sunscreens available. Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Color + Correct and Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream continue to be my top picks for everyday sunscreen for my face. They’re both SPF 30+ zinc based–for the broadest spectrum of sun protection available, non nano particle, free of all the nasties (parabens, glycols, butenes, chemical sunblocks, etc.), and they both smell nice–something I’m very partial to seeing as I’m very scent-sensitive. Andalou offers a better price point, but Juice Beauty has a wider range of colors to choose from.

For my kids’ faces and for all of our bodies, I continue to love Burnout Sunscreen. It, too, is zinc-based, non-nano and moisturizing. Burnout offers several different formulations, but I usually get the Kids Physical SPF 35 or the Ocean Tested SPF 30. Burnout products are “reef safe” which is becoming a bigger deal in many parts of the world that still have viable coral reefs and/or reef fish populations. The faint white sheen it has when you first apply it sinks in about 10-20 minutes after application, which is perfect timing given that experts recommend applying mineral sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Another bonus: It doesn’t make you break out! There are no pore-clogging or other irritating ingredients, but if you’re prone to breakouts, always apply your sunscreen (or anything going on your fact) using clean hands. (But Burnout offers a Lightweight Oil-Free version if you’re extra sensitive.)

Of course, the best sun protection is no sun, or a long-sleeve shirt and broad-brimmed hat. (I love this inexpensive one featured above by Hinge at Nordstrom.) I don’t have a photo to share of her, but my 77-year-old aunt who grew up in Hawaii–but has always covered up, has an incredibly smooth, cream colored complexion. It’s too late to reverse some of the sun-worshipping naughtiness of my youth, but at least I make a point of putting on sunscreen everyday–rain or shine.

Happy summer and safe sunning!

 

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I don’t know if you’re experiencing an unusually tough winter like the one that’s been ravaging Northern California since last November. Even though the temperatures continue to hover above average, the insane amounts of rain falling on my area means fewer days outside, and more time spent inside with heaters blowing. As a result, my skin is noticeably drier and overall more sensitive. (Undoubtedly my skin is also drier due to my advancing years, but that’s another topic for another time.)

While I still haven’t embraced the oil cleansing technique using plain coconut oil, I do understand the science behind it, and I agree with many beauty experts that oil is the best and gentlest way to cleanse and moisturize your skin. Of course, human skin responds better to some oils than others, so I recommend always using plant oils over unnatural oils, such as mineral oil which is derived from petroleum products. Most people with mature and/or very dry skin seem to do well with pure coconut oil as their cleanser. If you’re like me with regular oily patches and prone to breakouts, something gentler and lighter like almond or sesame oil works well.

That said, because I’m a product junkie, I like to use products someone else makes for me to–including my oil cleanser. (As always, I only use all-natural products free of parabens, petroleum-based ingredients, phthalates, glycols, and other irritating, hormone-disrupting or toxic ingredients.)

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My favorites right now are Marie Veronique Replenishing Oil Cleanser and Weleda Soothing Cleansing Lotion/Almond (shown above). For nighttime moisturizing, I love Marie Veronique’s Rejuvenating Night Oil (also shown above). Like all MV products, it smells amazing, is completely natural and free of any toxic ingredients, and it absorbs beautifully. You can apply it over your other serums or treatments, such as retinoids and Vitamin C serums.

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Protect your lips with one of RMS’s tinted lip shines. They’re super moisturizing and completely natural and non-toxic as well. I like the shade “Honest,” (shown above) because it gives a subtle bit of peachy-pink color, which helps gently brighten the winter pale face most of us have right now.

You can moisturize your body with coconut oil as well, or if you’re bothered by the slightly greasy feel you get after applying, simply melt some in between your palms with your regular lotion. You can also use coconut oil to moisturize dry locks by either massaging some into hair and scalp at least 20 minutes before you shampoo, or by working a small amount into the ends of your hair before or after you’re doing styling it.

 

Happy moisturizing!

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Happy New Year! I hope your holiday–no matter how you celebrated it, was merry and bright, and that you’re looking forward to embracing a new year.

Depending on how you lean politically, you may feel a bit of dread as you look to this new year. Or you may feel the pressure to make big plans and set high goals for yourself. We expect so much of ourselves these days–much more than other people expect of us if we stop and really think about it.

Lately, I have been chastising myself for not posting more recipes or product recommendations or summaries of scientific findings. But between caring for my children and serving as the interim executive director of my foundation (link), I haven’t had time for any of it except snapping off photos of some of my meals and daily adventures.

When the new year rolled around, my first inclination was to set targets on how many posts I should publish, how many projects I should complete for the foundation, how many miles I should run weekly, etc. But after some careful thinking, I decided that what my main goal should be is to slow down, ease up, be gentler on myself and more present in the lives of those I love. The “shoulding” is a slow killer. We are not superhuman–none of us.

I don’t want to appear sexist, but the “shoulding” problem appears to affect women more than men. If men do only one job, and they do it well, they are often generally satisfied with themselves. But women seem more prone to setting unrealistic targets across multiple areas of their lives, and this isn’t healthy or sustainable. The woman you may know who raises perfect, well-adjusted kids, stays amazingly fit, produces incredible creations from her kitchen, runs a company, serves on a bunch of non-profit boards, and stays up to date on current affairs, is paying the price in some way. Maintaining that level of achievement and busy-ness takes its toll. We are all just human, and the day holds only so many hours.

Doing too much makes us prone to all sorts of health problems that can present in an immediate and obvious way, like a cold or flu, or slowly wear down our defenses, making us vulnerable to more serious illnesses.

So during this winter season (at least for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere), when you suddenly think of one more thing you could/should be doing, stop. Make a cup of tea, take a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood, read a fun article in a meaningless magazine, and slow yourself down.

While the rain and snow do their thing outside your window, try making golden tumeric milk. It will warm and nourish your body and boost your immunity. Tumeric contains curcumin, a very strong antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. In fact, a friend told me over the holiday, that she was able to avoid a costly surgery for her elderly dog, after the dog tore its ACL, by feeding it high doses of curcumin, glucosamine (cushions bones at joints) and hyaluronic acid (collagen building).

This milky tea takes minutes to make, yet has lasting benefits. Depending on where you live, you can buy fresh tumeric from your natural grocer.

 

Ingredients

1 cup almond or other non-dairy milk

1 thumb-size piece of fresh tumeric, peeled and roughly chopped

Several grinds of fresh-ground pepper*

1 tbsp maple syrup or sweetener of your choice

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

A healthy pinch of ground cinnamon

*Whether you’re making tumeric milk or taking tumeric supplements, make sure you eat black pepper at the same time. Black pepper contains piperine which significantly increases (2000%!) the absorption of curcumin. Curcumin is also fat soluble so always consume it with a meal or a drink like this one that contains healthy fats.

 

Preparation

Put the first three ingredients in a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix, and blend until deep gold in color and frothy. Pour the milk mixture into a small saucepan and heat just until hot. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour into your favorite cup and sip away.

Enjoy!

 

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If you read a lot of health-focused food blogs and/or follow a lot of plant-based Instagram users, you’ve undoubtedly seen many photos of overnight oats. They have become a thing–that’s for certain, but I for one can easily see why. Regular cooked oats don’t always sit right with my tummy, and the texture can get a little weird–as in too gummy, tending toward slimy, etc. However, overnight oats keep my tummy humming along nicely, they’re never slimy or gummy–just cool and creamy (although I know some people like to heat theirs).

If you find yourself intrigued by the idea, and if you haven’t tried them yet, try them!! You can alter a basic bowl of overnight oats at least two dozen ways. I like to make mine with peanut butter, then add more goodies in the morning, such as fresh fruit and coconut cream. (The nut butter adds enough protein and healthy fat that I stay full all the way until lunch time.) Some like to add a little chocolate drizzle by combining cocoa powder, coconut oil and a little sweetener over heat. That’s too decadent for my mornings, so I tend to stick with fresh mango and banana or berries.

I also love that you can prepare it in 2 minutes the night before, and have a delicious breakfast ready to go in the morning! My mornings are always rushed with making the children breakfast, packing their lunches, feeding our three cats, coordinating play dates, etc. I like that I can just reach in the fridge and voila–breakfast is ready.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do!

 

Ingredients for one

1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats

1 tbsp black chia seeds

2/3 cup almond or other plant-based milk

2 tbsp peanut butter or other nut butter

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch kosher salt

 

Preparation

Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and put in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, stir again, add a little coconut cream or milk and some fruit, and…

 

Enjoy!

 

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I suspect that no matter where you live, you can already sense summer’s approach. For those living in more northern climes, it may have been an unusually warm day, or lighter, skimpier clothing displayed in department store windows. Here in northern California, we’ve had some bizarrely warm days–warm enough for shorts.

I relish preparations for summer. OK, I admit, I use the change of season as an excuse to buy a few new pieces for the wardrobe–you know, something to make me anticipate sand between my toes, the clear cool of a lake, or an travel adventure in a foreign land. I also like to fully prepare my arsenal for protecting my skin against stronger sun rays, and longer times spent in the sun. But in all honesty, these products are ones I use year-round… I just like to stock up before summer.

 

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This year’s sun protection favorites include:

Burnout Sunscreen, $17.99 for 3oz – This continues to remain my favorite.* Reasonably priced, and all natural, this non-nano-particle zinc oxide-based cream goes on easily, doesn’t give you the white “Casper” look, provides true SPF 30 protection and doesn’t sting the eyes.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream, $39 for 1.7oz – I still find this all-natural, tinted “BB” cream superior to any other natural BB creams available. The moisturizing formula goes on beautifully, provides SPF 30 using a non-nano zinc base, and comes in several natural shades. I use it every day–religiously. When I want a little extra coverage, I simply brush a bit of mineral-based powder over my face after I’ve applied the CC Cream.

BrushOnBlock, $32 for .12oz – I really like this mineral-based SPF 30 powder for touching up during the day and for when I want extra coverage over my tinted face cream/block. It’s the perfect size for carrying in a tote bag or even a small clutch. It controls oily afternoon shine–if you’re prone to that, and makes reapplying sunscreen easy.

La Natura Botanicals Green Tea Hand Cream, $16 for 3oz- I only recently discovered this product, but I became an instant fan. The formulation feels rich, but absorbs quickly thanks to a little rice and cornstarch in the ingredients. It also has a nice, light herbal scent, which I’m always on the lookout for since I’m so scent-sensitive. As I’ve gotten older, my skin has gotten increasingly drier–a trend that’s amplified on my hands, and made worse by all the dishwashing and gardening I do.

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm, $6.99 for .15oz – I think I own every color this product comes in! The six subtly-colored shades provide long-lasting moisture, and the easy to use, “Chapstick”-style tube make this product a go-to for purse, beach bag, etc.

Most importantly, remember the basics:

  1. Apply sunscreen every day–rain or shine, and reapply often if you’re going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time or you’re swimming.
  2. Avoid chemical formulations, and look for mineral, zinc oxide formulations with an SPF of 30.
  3. The sun’s rays are typically at their strongest between the hours of 10am and 3pm.
  4. Make use of hats, cover-ups and rash guards. All three are available in so many great styles, and many can provide sun protection superior to any cream or lotion (and without the hassle of reapplying).

Summer here we come!

 

*I used the Honest Company’s sunscreen last year, but while I liked the non-whitening, super-moisturizing formulation, I agreed with a lot of the media that it didn’t provide the SPF 30 it claimed to. I don’t know if they reformulated the product, but once I hear they have, I will give it another try.

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Feeling tired too much of the time? Feeling pretty good in the morning, but fighting a serious slump in the afternoon between 2:00pm and 4:00pm? I’ve experienced days where I thought I could literally fall asleep standing up–and it usually hit me around 3:30pm. It’s one of the main reasons I did food-sensitivity testing, “went Paleo”, gave up gluten (95% of the time), etc. In the end, I think I was getting exhausted in the afternoon because my energy stores were simply too depleted by that time. My body essentially had nothing to draw on. I have taken specific and deliberate measures to change the situation, but I still have some pretty sluggish afternoon moments.

So many of us find ourselves overstretched on our commitments and overtaxed on everything else, especially in America where most jobs don’t abide by the 9-5 rule. Whether real or perceived, many people I know feel they’re expected to work 70+-hour weeks. Commutes have become longer and more stressful. I think mothers suffer the most… In many cases, even if they’re career women, they’re expected to work full-time and take care of the kids and the home, participate in school, etc. And moms who have quit or taken a break from their careers aren’t exempt. They’re often expected to volunteer significant hours at school, serve on non-profit boards, plan fundraisers, while raising the kids and taking care of the home.

Daily and chronic fatigue can result from many things, and what other expect of us and what we expect of ourselves is another discussion, but consider these common, relatively easy to remedy, causes of tiredness:

Dehydration

One of the most common causes of fatigue, is also one of the easiest to remedy. When your body doesn’t have enough fluid in it, your blood thickens making it harder for your body to get oxygen to your cells for ultimate functioning. Aim for 8-11 cups a day of filtered water, herbal tea or natural coconut water. Just take care to avoid too much caffeine (the relatively small amount in green tea is fine) or caffeinated drinks enjoyed too late in the day where they could disrupt your sleep. And beware of drinks containing too much sugar–including many juices and some smoothies, which will only cause your insulin level to spike and your energy to crash.

I like energy-boosting teas, such as Yogi Tea’s Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy with black tea, green mate, ashwagandha root and ginseng.

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Snacks

Snack on whole foods that provide quick energy along with plenty of nutrients. For example, pumpkin seeds give you…. I’m not a huge fan of seeds, but spiced pumpkin seeds are delicious, and offer just enough saltiness and zing to make them practically addictive. Try the recipe below from the ZenBelly Cookbook. A banana is a perfect mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up snack. In addition to three natural sugars, bananas contain fiber so you get an instant and sustained boost of energy.

Unless you’re strictly Paleo, be sure to consume a healthy portion of whole grains at lunch–barley, millet and quinoa are all good choices (unless, of course, you have an allergy to quinoa like I developed three years ago). Whole grains offer a sustained source of energy.

Have a low-sugar and nutrient-dense bar or slice of bread on hand for when he hunger pains strike or you start to feel drowsy. I like to make my own food, so I rarely buy “energy” bars, but there are some good ones available now that provide plenty of protein and fiber without a ton of sugar. I prefer to have a slice of grain-free bread such as the “loaded banana bread” from the ZenBelly Cookbook. I’ll be posting my modified recipe in the next few days.

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Sleep and body function

If you constantly feel overly tired, consider getting tested for thyroid dysfunction or hormonal imbalances. Avoid any screens at least an hour before you aim to go to sleep or buy yourself a pair of amber lenses that block blue light (and use them!). Also be sure to fall asleep by 10:30pm–latest, to work with your circadian rhythms for improved sleep and brain function.

Exercise

Make sure you get regular exercise, which studies show improves energy and sleep quality. Regular exercise also boosts mood, helps balance hormones and serves as a great stress reliever. So many people think they can’t make time for it, but exercise enables you to do more more efficiently–in other words, it uses time but actually buys you time. And even though my friends would call me a hypocrite to hear me say this, make time to relax and recharge your inner batteries.

Spiced Pepitas

Recipe from Zenbelly, although I slightly upped the amounts on all the ground spices.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp lemon, orange or lime juice

3/4 tsp finely ground sea salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp chipotle powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp coconut sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven the 375F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss well to combine.

Spread on the prepared sheet and bake for 5 -7 minutes, or until the seeds become crisp and slightly puffed. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. The seeds keep for weeks, but if they lose a little crunch, you can reheat them in a 350F oven for 2-3 minutes.

Be well and full of energy!

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You might recall a post from last year in which I described how I took a food sensitivity test that told me I’m highly sensitive to eggs, green peppers and pineapple. I also discussed how this type of test gets mixed reviews, but it continues to be very popular among alternative practitioners.

Well my daughter has been suffering from a mildly stuffy and/or runny nose for months. When I first noticed it last summer, I assumed she was getting an out-of-season cold–just a fluke. We were traveling in Europe, and I figured the long flights and significant time change were making her susceptible. When the mild “cold” came home from Europe with us, I assumed she must have seasonal allergies, or that she had developed an allergy to dust mites (covering all those millions of tiny Lego pieces strewn across every surface in her room) or pollen or something along those lines.

I took her in for an allergy skin test which showed she has very sensitive skin but isn’t allergic to any of the usual suspects. On the doctor’s recommendation, I later took her in for an allergy blood test. Once again, it showed she isn’t allergic to any of the common allergens. I eventually took her to see an MD who’s also a Homeopath. After asking me a lot of questions about my daughter’s diet, her mucus and various other bodily functions, the doctor concluded she must have a food sensitivity and ordered the IgG test. The doctor suspected a dairy allergy, which I was secretly hoping for because I already substitute coconut and almond milk for dairy in most of my cooking.

Several weeks later we learned, that according to the test, my daughter is, like me, highly sensitive to eggs. Of course eggs would turn out to be the culprit! After all, I feed my kids eggs every day. My whole family loves eggs. I love to bake and nearly every favorite recipe calls for eggs. And we have three chickens. Not to mention, I consider the egg one of the most nutritionally perfect foods available. But alas and alack, no eggs for three months, said the doctor.

Since I never did give up eggs even after my igG test indicated I was highly sensitive to them (I just began eating them less frequently), I decided to not eat eggs for three months in solidarity with my daughter.

Here’s where you can envision the fingers drumming on the table and the foot tapping impatiently… We are three weeks into our 3-month sentence, and it’s tough going. Eggs are in everything–at least nearly everything we love. And I’ve practically stopped baking since it’s pretty difficult to bake anything decent without using eggs.

But I have discovered that there are some surprisingly good eggless versions of some of our breakfast standbys. For example, this pancake recipe is remarkably good, and just as easy to make as my oatmeal pancakes. I’m also experimenting with eggless waffles. When I get the recipe right, I’ll share it here. In the meantime, if you have an egg sensitivity or simply want more eggless options, try these delicious, surprisingly light and fluffy pancakes.

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Ingredients (for approximately 6 4-inch diameter pancakes)

1 cup whole-grain spelt flour

2 heaping tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 cup milk (cow’s or almond work best)

1 tbsp water

3 tbsp coconut oil melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Preparation

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Pour the milk into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add the water, vanilla extract and coconut oil to the milk.

Whisk the wet into the dry until just combined. Do not overstir. Let sit for 2-3 minutes.

Heat a large cast-iron or other griddle pan over medium heat. Add in a little butter or coconut oil and spoon in your pancake batter. Cook approximately 2 minutes or until golden brown before flipping over.

Serve with love.

 

Enjoy!

 

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