simple pleasure of the week: a joyful pet

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Gosh is there anything better than watching a dog run along the beach full of pure joy, or jumping around to greet you as you arrive home? The jury is still out, but I'm pretty sure the answer is "nope". I always love walking down to our local beach to watch the dogs run around wildly and freely, and I'm pretty sure their joy is contagious because I've said time and time again, it's hard to be sad or upset when you are around a joyful pup. Pets remind you to be in the moment because that is how they live their lives. I have a friend who is father to two cats and if the 1,000 snapchats I've received of his cats are any indication of how much joy they bring him, I'd say those kitties are pretty much his favorite thing ever. You don't have to have a pet to enjoy this simple pleasure, as you can head down to your local dog park, beach, or visit an animal shelter to walk the dogs, or pet the cats as a volunteer. 

life resides in the grey, and everyone's path is unique

An interesting journey for me has been the broadening of my perspective on what is right and what is wrong in life. There really is no right or wrong. Yes, of course we have some basic rules to guide our lives (e.g. do no harm, thou shalt not kill, honesty, integrity, etc.), but hardly anything, if anything, is all right or all wrong. There are pros and cons to everything, and whether something is right or wrong typically depends on how those pros and cons interact with our own personal values. I am always wary when I hear someone claim their way is the "right way" to do something, eat, live life, raise children, etc. Everyone is different and unique, so it seems impossible to find anything that's right for all people under the sun. 

In retrospect, the way I grew up contradicted the idea that everything resides in a grey area. I learned there was right behavior and wrong behavior, and wrong behavior equals punishment. In school, I learned there was one right answer on a test, other answers equaled a grade reduction. So, naturally, learning that there are really no rights or wrongs was a revelation for me, and one topic of discussion I always bring up with my clients. I can't tell someone what decision is right for them, or how they should live their life, because what works for me may not work for them. We all carry with us our own history, values, personality, hopes, and dreams. Life choices must take all these aspects of ourselves into account. Hardly are our options ideal, and we are often faced with the burden to choose the better of two imperfect options. Always, our behaviors (even the bad ones) served us in some way, otherwise we would have never begun them. Often, our bad habits have ceased to serve us, and the cons outweigh the pros, we just fail to realize this. 

The point is,  nothing is all right or all wrong, all pro or all con. There are always pros and cons to everything, every behavior, every relationship, every situation, every choice. Often, when faced with a difficult choice, I make a mental or sometimes physical list of the pros and cons for each choice, and rank pros/cons according to my own values. This reflection allows me to decide if I need to change something, guides me when faced with a tough decision, and allows me to realize when my habits have ceased to serve and begun to hinder me. Black and white thinking has rarely served me in life, and when I take time to reflect on the pros and cons, I am reminded that life resides in the grey, and only  I can determine my own path.

simple pleasure of the week: cozy socks on a cold morning

I was always a slippers or barefoot kinda girl, but cozy socks have found a special place in my heart as of late. There's nothing like slipping on a super soft, plush pair of cozy socks on a cold night or morning. I recently invested in a more luxe pair of cozy house socks and am fairly sure it was money well spent. There's something so lovely about the feel of cozy socks pulled up around some leggings with a large flannel or oversized sweatshirt, hidden underneath baggy pajama pants, tucked into slippers, or against a hardwood floor as you slide across Risky Business style. Cozy socks don't have to be expensive, but it is nice to invest in a pair you can wear to death, and here along the west coast, the evening and early morning weather almost always lends itself to some big cozy socks : ). 

how to make an impact on earth day and for years to come

Earth Day is coming up on Friday, April 22. A couple years back I shared this Jane Goodall quote that really brings the point home, "You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." Earth Day was started as a call to global environmental awareness and led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clear Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Although we as individuals may not have the means to enact such a large scale change, we can impact the world around us, and as Jane mentions everything we do makes a difference. Small, simple changes in our everyday can make a huge impact. Earthday.org has some great ideas to get us all started on this greener path. The list below can help with some additional guidance.

  • Limit animal consumption in your diet. For those on the fence about becoming a vegetarian or wanting to learn more about the impacts of animal agriculture on our environment I highly recommend the documentary Cowspiracy. I wrote an article about this doc here.
  • Walk or ride a bike instead of driving. Another benefit of going outside and moving is that it will also reduce your stress and improve your mood. We call that a win-win.
  • Stop using disposable plastic. Bring reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, eat food with non disposable silverware, and fill up a reusable water bottle.
  • Shop locally. Head to a farmers market instead of the grocery store when possible. Local businesses require less transportation which means less pollution, plus they are usually smaller which equates to less land consumption.
  • Recycle. This is a straight forward one. It is so easy to do, and yes that one piece of paper makes a difference. 
  • Use less water. Collect rain water, take shorter showers, and/or plant drought tolerant plants. Did you know Americans use 5 times more water than Europeans and that about 95% of the water that enters our homes goes right down the drain?

simple pleasure of the week: board games

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While people tend to gravitate towards their phones or computers for entertainment, Perkin and I prefer physical games over their digital counterparts. About 75% of the time we have Scrabble sitting out in our living room. If not Scrabble it is either Exploding Kittens,  Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. Board and card games lead to more personal interactions and more time spent enjoying each others company. When we reach for our phones for entertainment, we often zone out not noticing those around us. Playing games face to face helps improve problem solving skills, memory, creativity, and social skills. There is also something comforting about playing a game we grew up with, such as Scrabble. It brings back fond memories. 

sweet potato quinoa bowl with tahini

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This is a bowl we have been making on the regular because it's easy, delicious, and makes for some good leftovers. You can even have the lentils and quinoa prepped and cooked beforehand to make your life easier and faster. I like the balance of flavors in this dish with the sweetness of the potatoes, the garlic in the lentil/quinoa dressing, and the nuttiness of the tahini. This is also plant-based, vegan, and gluten-free : ) Give it a try and see what you think.

Ingredients:

  • 2 med-large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils
  • vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • Tahini 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Italian Parsley
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Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Chop sweet potatoes into bite-sized cubes and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • Bake sweet potatoes in oven on parchment paper-lined baking sheet 20-25 min flipping once
  • Boil lentils in vegetable broth (I use the vegan powder form in water) for approx 20-25 min 
  • Cook quinoa in 1:2 ratio of quinoa:veggie broth in a rice cooker, or on stovetop (approx 15 min)
  • Prepare the dressing in serving bowl with olive oil, grated garlic clove (start with 1), salt/pepper
  • Add hot lentils and quinoa to bowl with dressing a toss
  • Add sweet potatoes and garnish with chopped parsley and drizzle with tahini 

This pretty much sums it up.  I think it's interesting to place fearless and gentle in the same quote, but how lovely is this idea that we can be both, at the same time?  I believe it's also important to note, that having fear and being fearless are not the same thing. One can have fear, and not allow that fear to run their life. By asking the "why" behind every decision, you can ensure that you aren't creating actions driven by fear. Gandhi also believed that the means and the end must be equal. We cannot have peace if our means to achieve peace are not peaceful. We cannot have a fearless life if our actions towards that future are driven by fear.  We cannot have an honest life if we aren't truthful along the way. Be truthful, gentle and fearless. Happy weekend : )

all natural makeup favorites

Last week we discussed the harmful effects toxins found in conventional makeup, and the barriers of switching over to all-natural makeup. Today we want to share some of our favorite clean beauty products. These are tried and true and have become must haves in our makeup routines! It is also important to note that all the products mentioned have received a 3 or lower from the Think Dirty app mentioned in the previous post. 

Sarah's picks:

  • Bite Agave Lip Mask. My go to for smooth lips! I have tried so many natural and not so natural lip conditioners and this stuff is better than anything out there. Apply this formula at night and wake up to moistened, healed lips. An extra perk is that it tastes good too!
  • Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation. I have tried many mineral foundations and find this one to be the best for my sensitive, combination skin. Between the natural appearance and build able coverage, it is a winner. The best part? There are only 4 ingredients in this.
  • Alima Pure Highlighter in Luna. If I feel like my skin is looking especially dull I will apply a little of this to brighten things up. I'll put it on my cheek bones, brow bones, and cupids bow for a healthy, lit from within glow.
  • Ilia Tinted Lip Conditioner. When I want some color on the lips, I love this stuff. During the summer when my skin is a bit more tanned, Shell Shock (a bright coral) is my favorite. 
  • Physicians Formula Organic Wear MascaraThis stuff is surprisingly good! I have tried other Physicians Formula products with some disappointment but this mascara makes my lashes full and long. Plus it is easy to get off, which is a win in itself. My eyes really get irritated if I have to rub them to get product off. With this mascara it just isn't needed. 

Ashley's picks:

  • 100% Pure Cocoa Bronzer. This is really, really good. I used a popular holy grail high end brand for years, and this is just as good, maybe better. It warms up the skin and looks super natural blended out. This stuff is very pigmented though so a little goes a long way (p.s. this company is having 25% off everything right now).
  • 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Blush in 'Healthy'. Love this. Don't know what else to say except that it's truly pigmented and this shade does look like a healthy glow. I want to try  more of their shades (p.s. this company is having 25% off everything right now). 
  • Mineral Fusion Eye Shadows. I have the 6 shade palette available only at Whole Foods, but I'm so impressed with the pigment and blend ability of these babies. Definitely perform like high end eye shadows!
  • RMS Uncover Up Concealer. I'm the shade 22 (which is the most popular shade). I use this coconut oil-based concealer under my eyes and it stays put all day. This concealer does need to be set with powder, though, so make sure to have that on hand. 
  • ZuZu Luxe Eyeliner in 'Obsidian'. This is the best black, natural eyeliner I've found. I tried a few, and this one had the best black pigment and smoothest texture.  

simple pleasure of the week: gardening

As the days become warmer all I want to do is be outside and surrounded by nature. I have found myself time and again daydreaming about how I want my garden to look, what to plant, the colors I want to incorporate, and the smells I want to be enveloped by. These are some of my favorite things to think about. Gardening brings a sense of calm into my world and a fun focus for the weekends. It helps me to unplug from technology and be mindful as to what this earth can offer without the need of the newest gadget. Planning out my garden, researching about the best plants for our climate, getting my hands dirty, watering the flowers, and watching everything grow is a simple pleasure of mine.

is your beauty routine toxic?

I try to take care of myself by limiting the amount of harmful foods I put into my body and exercising regularly. I practice yoga and eat organic, unprocessed foods, but have neglected to think of the things I place on my body. Research shows that the majority of what we place on our skin gets absorbed directly into our bloodstream. This means our grooming products and household cleaners expose us to the chemicals they are made of. Toxic chemicals absorbed from our beauty and cleaning routines can cause health problems, fertility issues, and contribute to cancer.  Read more about this here. As a female, I began thinking of all of my makeup, skincare, deodorants, face wash, body wash, toothpaste, and cleaners that were potentially exposing me to toxins. I have converted to mainly natural lotions, shower, and cleaning products, but makeup has been the last of my beauty routine to be converted. There's so much great makeup out there that is super toxic, and I must admit it's been a really hard thing to give up. Generally, natural makeup isn't easily accessible (majority of brands available online only), doesn't perform as well as conventional, and doesn't have that sexy packaging luxury makeup brands do so well. Converting to a natural beauty routine takes time, effort, and research, which is what makes it so difficult. You often can't get any of these makeup items at a drugstore or department store. You also can't trust that 'natural' brands are really keeping their products clean. I now check all products using the app listed below before purchasing. In my quest to convert fully to a natural beauty routine, I've done research on brands and tools. Below are what I have found to be helpful:

  • Think Dirt App: This app is free and has been a lifesaver on my quest to eliminate toxic products from my life. You simply type in the product or scan a barcode and the app rates the product on level of toxicity from 0-10 with a 0 being the cleanest and 10 being the most toxic. This has taken the guesswork out of finding non-toxic products and made this journey so much easier. Another great feature of this app is the 'suggestions' section where you can look at what clean products are recommended to replace the toxic product you've just searched.
  • EWG.org is also another resource for learning about eliminating toxins from your life. EWG has info regarding the chemical world food and beauty related. Their SKIN DEEP guide is specific to beauty products and here you can look up toxicity levels of beauty products as well. 

Below are some clean makeup brands that perform like the conventional makeup brands we all love. 

  • W3ll People This was a company founded by 3 people hence the number 3 substituted for the "e" in Well. Their slogan is 'hippie tested, diva approved'. One of the founders of Well People was a makeup artist and leader for NARS so she knows how makeup is supposed to perform. I have yet to pick up anything from this brand but I have my eye on their bio brightener stick.
  • RMS This company was founded by Rose-Marie Swift, a makeup artist for Victoria's Secret who has a long list of celebrity clients. She knows good makeup, and founded the brand after discovering her health problems may have been related to the beauty products she had been working with for years. This brand is clean, and performs like high-end conventional makeup. 
  • Alima Pure Best known and loved for their mineral makeup. I have yet to try their makeup but plan to switch to their mineral makeup brand once I use up the Tarte mineral foundation I've been using. The nice thing about Alima is you can order a foundation sample pack dependent on complexion to ensure you find your perfect color match before ordering a full size. This brand is also super clean and safe.
  •  100% Pure Committed to creating pure products, free of all toxins, and synthetics, this brand is really super clean, many of their products scoring a 0 on the Think Dirty app which is as good as it gets when it comes to toxicity ratings. I just purchased their cocoa bronzer and fruit pigmented blush in the shade 'healthy'. 

I haven't been able to make the switch to natural mascara yet, so if anybody has suggestions for a good performing clean mascara, please leave comments below!