ayurveda

two-step face: apothecary style

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So you wanna talk beauty?  That’s a little outside my comfort zone.  I’m not a RA RA natural beauty cheerleader, and those mantras about beauty being skin deep and on the inside get really twisted in my dark mind.  I will say: the best way I’ve found to stay glowing is to surround myself with people who love all aspects of me (especially people who think I’m funny, because I will make lots of jokes and do lots of bits and generally be my silly self), and to live in such a way that I feel I’m doing the best I can.  I like to eat well (real food and soul food), hang out by the ocean, belt my favorite songs, snuggle my favorite animals (and humans!).  I also stick to my comfort zone when it’s important for me, like what I wear and where I go.  You won’t find me in a miniskirt in a bar, because I’m probably in a sweater in the backyard with a good book and the dog.  In all this, I may not have the best hair or flawless airbrushed skin, but I can look at myself in the mirror and actually see myself.  I don’t have to avoid myself, and I don’t have to try very hard either (which is key).  

You must know: I have weird aversions.  It’s not that I don’t care about being clean (although sometimes I truly don’t), it’s that I seriously hate showering so much I’ll endure until I want to scratch my head off.  I only shower at night because I hate being cold and wet in the morning.  I only wash my face in the shower because splashing water on my face in any other context makes me cringe.  I literally tense all my muscles and try to curl up in a ball while standing.  So this process was borne out of an extreme desire to avoid doing anything unnecessarily time consuming and uncomfortable, including washing my face.  TMI TMI TMI.

I stopped wearing makeup in college, in true granola fashion. Until recently, I didn’t even own anything that could be smudged onto the facial plane to elicit effect. I bought a mineral powder a couple months ago to hopefully tone down what was a particularly tomato-bright sunburn, and I’ve worn it probably three times since (to job interviews). The point is, I got very comfortable with my naked face. Thought it wasn’t always in the “fall in love with your natural self” way; it was often out of extreme disinterest and an inability to grip why something like that might be of necessity.  (Ask me why it took me 25 years to maintain a hairstyle, and see above for why it’s an awful chore to even wash my hair.) It was one of the easiest old habits to shelve – despite being one that begins incredibly early for women as my peers and I started dabbling in grade school. Whether or not you wear makeup, maintaining healthy skin is important to look and feel our best.

So many of us who take interest in the health and presentation of ourselves (including our face!) are in pursuit of those young features: even skin tone, blemish-free, firm elasticity. I basically don’t want to be thinking about my face all day; I want it to be there, doing it’s job, not causing problems. As I also strive to be a minimal consumer of products, I wasn’t interested in hunting down this or that serum that might do the trick – with unholy chemicals to boot. So I looked where I normally would: the apothecary kitchen.

I’ve been doing step one for about four years now, and recently committed to step two (I had been using a natural lotion sporadically, and started committing to actually moisturizing my face for the past six months). It’s never felt better!

Today, my skin routine is merely two steps. It can be done morning or night, or both, or whenever it’s warranted. I don’t have to worry about over-cleaning my face, or struggling with a dry face all day if I forget to moisturize. It’s so simple and keeps me thinking on the daily, “How is my face this soft?!”

TWO-STEP FACE: APOTHECARY STYLE

What you will need:

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STEP ONE: cleanse

  • Witch Hazel → you can find organic options in your natural foods store. I have also found it in my regular grocery store’s first aid aisle.
  • Apple cider vinegar → you know the drill; it’s in EVERYTHING these days
  • Cotton balls
  • A glass jar

STEP TWO: moisturize

  • Sesame oil → when I open a new jar of tahini, I pour off the oil that gathers on top and jar it specifically for bathroom use. You can also purchase sesame oil in the grocery store; I’ve found it in the ethnic foods aisle, and you can seek out organic options if you like.
  • Bonus: natural sunscreen!

Ingredient Spotlight

WITCH HAZEL – is a natural astringent made from the bark of the witch hazel shrub. It works to tone the skin and calm hives and rashes. I use it primarily as a cleanser instead of the whole soap-and-water routine. It can remove makeup, under-eye bags, and soothe a variety of skin conditions. I also use it on my underarms and anywhere I’m worried about razor burn.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR – is full of vitamins and minerals that fight bacteria and regulate the body’s pH levels.

SESAME OIL – has long been used in the practice of Ayurveda to promote health and balance VATA dosha (grounding, moisturizing). It can be swished in the mouth to pull out toxins and mucus buildup. In self-massage, it moisturizes and maintains health due to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.

How to prepare

In a small jar, mix 1:1:1 → witch hazel : apple cider vinegar : water.

How to use

  1. Remove all heavy makeup using coconut oil or other makeup remover. Light makeup (such as a light dusting of mineral powder) can be removed with the witch hazel solution.
  2. To cleanse face: dip a cotton ball in the witch hazel solution and squeeze out excess liquid. Apply to face. There will be a noticeable lift in dirt on the cotton ball. You may do this multiple times if desired until cotton ball comes clean. Dispose.
  3. To moisturize: dip a few fingers into sesame oil and rub fingers of both hands together. Distribute evenly to face and neck (if desired). A little goes a long way, but be sure to apply enough to moisturize the skin properly.
  4. Optional: if desired, mix sunscreen and sesame oil together before applying.

Other helpful tips

  • If I run out of witch hazel or ACV, I have simply used one or the other. I like them best together, but I’m also economical and lazy, so I get it. Just know that they both have tonifying effects and do the job on their own.
  • If applying oil to your face sounds counterintuitive, know this: your face (your whole body, in fact) has its own proper process for producing whatever it is your body needs, and in the correct amount. A lifetime of soaping our face and hair and skin can strip our body’s natural sensors and this process must be reestablished. Your body will regulate, and applying a sensible amount of oil to your face will not make you the grease monster. It may take days or weeks to regulate, but when you do, your skin will keep the proper moisture necessary to stay hydrated and elastic.
  • The sesame oil does have a cooking-in-an-Asian-kitchen kind of smell when you first apply it, but it tones down quickly. No one has ever commented that my face smells like food or anything… 😉
  • It’s also important to drink a lot of water to keep your skin hydrated.

 

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eating meat again

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Disclaimer: I make no assumption about what is good and right for you or anyone else to consume regarding animal products. I make no claims regarding the consequences or benefit of consuming animal products. I only state what I am choosing and a brief cause for why. Please consult reputable research and data to form your own opinions.

It came to me as a matter of intuition. I began joking with friends, “You know how people go on cleanses where they cut out eating this and that for a week to see how they feel?” I’d been on over a dozen cleanses by then. I had a very “clean” diet by so many standards, but I didn’t feel all that great. I felt extremely limited and wholly unsatisfied and created shame around certain ways of eating and indulging.  And I started having extreme physical discomfort after eating beans, legumes, and most grains – which appear to be the power basis of a vegetarian diet. My protein sources limited, my energy and morale low, I suggested, “What if I added meat back in for a week, just to see what happens?!” Folks laughed at me: the nut always shaking up her diet. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually go through with it at first, but as soon as I gave myself permission and stopped making animal foods the enemy, the primal cravings quickly surfaced.

It’s been nearly two and a half months since I had that first bite of chicken in seven years. I survived on a low-protein diet for most of that time, so I wasn’t initially compelled to add meat to every meal. When I do have it, my portions are typically half-size and more like a condiment. For example, I’ll chop a bit to go in with pepitas and carrot shreds in a salad. Though it is true that I entertained adding meat back in for sufficient protein, I do not think a vegan or vegetarian diet lacks in protein.  My VATA imbalance no longer allows my body to support those kinds of plant-based proteins, and I was at a loss.  Subsisting off fruits and vegetables and nuts may sound like a primate’s dream, but I was getting a bit bored, and I often felt malnourished and ravenous.  Overall, adding meat and animal protein back into my diet has made me better able to stay satiated on a legume-free, low-grain diet.

More than simply changing my way of eating, I have changed my tune.  For a long time I was under the presumption that we had to find our one true way and stick to it.  I wanted to be labeled VEGAN so that no one had to guess and I had a set of rules to follow.   But my foodie nature suffered, as it mostly meant lame garden salads and faux-meat substances, and things were still highly processed and full of preservatives. I longed for a simpler way of eating without restriction.  Lately, I’ve offered my wandering heart more forgiveness.  Through studying Ayurveda, I have come to realize that we are constantly seeking a state of balance, and we may flow this way and that, day by day, year by year.  If I can understand my needs and how to work toward balance no matter where I’m at, then I can break free of any rigid systems and do what’s best for me in the moment.  I believe my scrubbed diet (among other things) tipped me into a VATA imbalance over the last seven years and I am in recovery.

Going vegetarian taught me how to cook. It taught me how to love vegetables and get creative when I wanted a “better” version of something. Recently, that fire started to dampen, and when I opened up the possibility of incorporating meat back into my meals, I began to see a future of delicious creativity ahead. I still think of myself as plant-based, because meat isn’t the main thing I eat, or even my favorite thing to eat. But it has been a good friend to me through this trying time.

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THINGS WORTH NOTING:

Ethics: I seek out the most ethically produced meat I know how. There are many ways to research this, many medias to guide your way. I urge you to make these choices for yourself. I want pastured chickens and wild fish. Local when possible. I’m not yet eating red meat or pork (never quite had a taste for them anyway), but if I did, I’d start with buffalo meat, lamb, goat, etc as they don’t tend to be factory farmed like cattle.

Prevalence: I try to only add one animal protein per meal. I may toss a boiled egg into my salad, spread cheese on a cracker, or stir-fry chicken and vegetables – all for separate meals / snacks.  I prefer goats’ milk cheese and sheeps’ yogurt to avoid factory-farmed dairy and lactase. I never desire to drink a glass of milk or anything like that. I prefer ghee or clarified butter with the milk solids (casein) removed, but do eat butter when that is what is available.  To keep within budget, I alternate when I buy certain products. I don’t keep them stocked all at once.

Mainstays: If I want milk for something like cereal or baking, I use a nutmilk or coconut milk. I find them cheaper and more delicious. I do watch out for fillers like gums and preservatives and “natural flavors” so I never buy shelf-stable boxed milk. I have found a canned coconut milk with only two ingredients: coconut and water. Nut milks you’ll likely need to blend yourself at home, but there are decent options in the refrigerator section with minimal ingredients in a pinch.  I avoid whey products (protein powders, bars, etc) as they do not support my personal health.   

More ethics: I’m still wrestling with how to eat animals. I have a tendency, with everything I do, to think through the chain of impact with a level of depth that makes it hard to get through the day without being on the verge of tears a dozen times. I make few decisions lightly. This one feels right for me for now.

Additional Reading:  You must do the work yourself.  You must be interested in order to form opinions.  You must research well in order to form grounded opinions.  You must believe for yourself in order to form strong opinions.  My journey has been long; nearly a decade.  These are some sources that have guided my way.
Avoiding Factory Farmed Foods: An Eater’s Guide by HuffPost
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan or any of his other books
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Any memoir about farming, homesteading, eating ethics, food politics, etc.
SOME carefully chosen documentaries: Food, Inc and other factory-farm docus.  Important to distinguish between the investigative ones uncovering injustice versus those trying to shame you into veganism.

RI: berry beet compote

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I haven’t been cooking much creatively lately as I sort of fell out of line with my one true passion for a while. For a number of reasons, I thought I needed a different hobby; needed to get involved in a new creative venture. I’m slowly getting back into the kitchen, starting with simple, whole foods recipes that don’t require much effort. And, with the move, I’m trying to use up the random things left in my pantry, so I guess things do tend to get a bit interesting!

This RI: Recipe Inspiration series is intended to be a round up of flavor combinations, recipe techniques and ingredient profiles to encourage you to be playful and experimental in the kitchen. I don’t follow recipes very often, and I think it’s a good thing! We can flex our creative muscles and find things to fill up our dinner plate from what we have already lying around. Here we go!

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MIXED BERRY + BEET COMPOTE

Week after week, my CSA box was full of beets. I love beets, but it was a bit much. I steamed and froze some of them for future use, and the future of cleaning-out-the-freezer-before-the-move was coming up quick. Along with a bag of frozen mixed berries, I stewed everything together. Berries are a low-sugar fruit, and beets are a high-sugar vegetable, so #balance, and earthy-meets-sour notes abound. Paired with one the of the many options listed below, the flavor combo is right on. It’s absolutely delicious.

What you will need:

  1. Mixed berries (fresh or frozen), such as blueberries, black berries, raspberries, strawberries
  2. Fresh or frozen steamed beets, chopped
  3. Coconut sugar or other natural sweetener (honey or maple syrup work well)

What to do:

  1. To a saucepan, add berries and beets. There will be juices after a while; continue to stir while it comes to a low boil and the juices begin to evaporate.
  2. Add in coconut sugar. I added one tablespoon per cup of fruit and it’s still pretty tart. If you want it sweeter, add more.
  3. Once the sauce is the consistency you like (I like it not too thick, but not runny), transfer some of the compote (especially the beets) to a blender and quickly blend to chop up the beets. Add back to saucepan and stir to combine.

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How to use:

  • Serve over pancakes, waffles, cereal, toast.
  • Swirl into yogurt, ice cream.
  • Fill crepes, jam bars, thumbprint cookies.
  • Spread on sweet and savory sandwiches.
  • Can be used as a sauce for baked chicken or fish.
  • Shown here stirred into full-fat coconut milk for a yogurt-style snack.

Tips:

  • If your compote is still pretty tart, serve it with fatty, sweet components to mute it down a bit.
  • I like to eat it with plain coconut milk because the heavy, creamy mixture supports VATA balance.
  • If you are feeling KAPHA or PITTA, you might enjoy it with a bit of ice cream.
  • You can make a compote out of any fruit. Fruits that are more ripe and sweet likely won’t need an added sweetener.
  • You can blend it smooth if desired.

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fluff free: wellness trends that should stay

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It’s no secret that I’m a leeeeetle bit skeptical of the trendy wellness world. Even still, I’m a card-carrying member for a reason: wellness matters to me. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it looks different for everyone, and that’s how it should be. I do tend to avoid anyone that’s trying to sell me a better life, so a lot of the emerging health craze has me doing a constant eye roll. There are, however, trends that I can get behind whole-heartedly. Want to know what they are?

MINIMALISM

Minimalism is having a moment. For some, minimalism is an inherent part of their nature; like a nervous tick, an inability to function unless everything is just right. For others, it’s more of a learned skill: consciously looking around the room and noticing when something is out of place or in excess. There’s an aesthetic minimalism, often meaning clean lines, muted tones, and just a few perfectly placed pieces of furniture. In that kind of setting, it’s highly noticeable if a pillow falls a little too far to the right, or if the dog left his toys in the middle of the floor again (savage!). Minimalism is also about keeping only what is necessary and serves an immediate purpose, and having a spot for everything – and I mean EVERYTHING. Never fear! That kind of minimalism can most definitely exist in a home with busier décor.

To me, minimalism just makes good sense. When I have clutter of any kind (even Monica Geller and I have junk drawers), I’m exponentially frazzled. It often means being unable to find what you need, especially during higher-stress moments like trying to leave the house on time.

There’s a lot of inspiration out there for how to get better at minimalism, and I’ll do a more in-depth post someday. For today, I’ll leave you with these tips that may not be as obvious:

  1. The best way to fight clutter is to stop it before it ever enters your home. Only buy items you need right away and when you get home, put everything away.
  2. When you leave a room, quick glance around and see if anything is there that doesn’t belong. Pick it up and walk it to its rightful home.
  3. When it comes to things that seem to pile up to no end (like flower vases, shopping totes, markers, notepads, undergarments), have a few high-quality items on hand that you really like and toss or donate anything of low-quality every time it comes into the house. No need to wait until the clutter builds up!
  4. Purge fridge and pantry often (weekly if possible) and get rid of things you don’t use or like. Also use this time to keep it organized (fruit on one shelf, leftovers on another, etc).
  5. Never leave anything in your car that does not have a specific function within your car. Tidy up your car every time you arrive home.

HOLISTIC HEALING

You know what else is having a moment? Alternative medicine. The US is finally embracing ancient medicinal practices like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda (India’s medical practice), 5000+ years later. This is a very good thing! It means we are stepping away from our typical toolkit of popping acetaminophen every day and racing to urgent care whenever we feel a head cold coming on. Instead, we’re brewing ginger tea, imbibing probiotics, and trying to breathe more deeply. The modern medical world has developed in large part to deal with modern issues, like migraines and obesity. And I must note that US doctors saved my life when I contracted a life-threatening illness at age eleven. However, I cannot deny that humans have lived a looooong time before modern medicine, and they must have developed some pretty rad tools to evolve this far. Seeking nature as my day-to-day healer has helped keep me healthy and asks me to consider my physical relationship to the energetic world whenever I feel dis-ease coming into my body. Whether one is turning to elderberry syrup to soothe a cough or receiving weekly acupuncture treatments or meeting with a psychic healer, there are a number of things people are doing to tackle challenges of having a human body (and mind!) and I hope this awakening can continue to be there for people when they seek it.

HOME COOKING

Two things:

It is so neat to me when people know how to cook. It tells me you are intelligent and ambitious, conscientious and self-reliant. Your stomach rumbles don’t send you straight to the drive-thru. You’ve thought enough in advance to know that you’re going to be hungry later, and you might like an avocado with spinach and chicken. And you can keep your kitchen stocked with whole foods ingredients and make these things for yourself! Don’t get me wrong: I love a fancy dinner out. I’m a foodie first, remember? On a day-to-day basis, however, I like to keep it simple and mega-tasty in the comfort of my own home. And I love that so many people – especially younger folks – are into this, too.

The other thing is that I am proud of womankind for taking back this domestic task and propelling themselves to the forefront of creativity and innovation when it comes to food. It may be true that most restaurant-employed chefs are male, but just look at the internet food scene and you’ll know that women are neck-and-neck with the big boys. If I google a recipe, I want to know how it comes out for home cooks, so I skip over food network websites and the like, and find blogs written by women who have dreamt up and created and artfully shared flavorful and nourishing meals.

And because primates are food-oriented, I believe, for this trend, there’s no end in sight!