Travel Lust

I am a restless person. For as long as I can remember, this has been the case. I fantasize about far flung places. I day dream about escaping, adventuring, running away to some culturally eclectic city or disappearing in the wilds to live with dirt under my nails and twigs in my hair.
Growing up in my family we did more traveling than some, less than others, but what we did only served to fuel the fire of these dreams.

I remember camping in the keys. Swimming with colorful fish, Moray eel, seahorses, stingrays. I would float over kelp beds and watch life unfold below me. Once, in knee deep water, my dad pissed off a young Hammerhead shark and I nearly strangled him climbing onto his shoulders to get away.

I remember visiting museums in Washington DC, seeing a giant brass pendulum swinging across a room and a blue diamond the size of a ping pong ball. It was my first time being in a big city.

I remember camping in the Great Smoky Mountains with my family. The days were filled with hiking and exploring, playing in icy rivers for hours, seeing black bears, catching salamanders.

As a teen I would take road trips every summer with one of my closest girlfriends and her mom. We would pack up into an old van, drive to a little refuge of land in Alabama and camp out. The days would be punctuated by time in sweat lodges, dancing all night barefoot under the stars, meals in the community kitchen. I would get my first tattoo on one of these trips, a honey bee on the underside of my left wrist.

At some point I learned about New Orleans. This place spoke to me through the pages of books, the internet, stories I overheard. I had to go to New Orleans! Had to! So I saved up what little money I could, conspired with my then boyfriend and another close girlfriend, and between the three of us we made it happen. Drove all day and stayed at an eccentric B&B owned by a fellow Dane and his husband. I fell in love with NOLA, just as I knew I would. Vibrant music spilled from doorways, abandoned strings of beads dangled from wrought iron fences and sparkled in the gutters, people dropped their inhibitions and let life swell their souls to bursting.
new orleans collage
It. Was. Amazing. And when I came home I started saving my money again, but this time it was with the intention of moving there. Then Hurricane Katrina happened. I took that as a sign I should probably change my plans.

Somehow Chicago hit my radar. I visited. I was probably 23 or 24, and this would be my first time on a plane. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something felt right about this city. I knew I wouldn’t want to live there forever, but I felt like I needed to live there for a least a little while.
I moved to Rogers Park, experienced snow for the first time, started working at a fantastic little bar/restaurant that was just down the street from me called The Heartland Cafe. It is at this very establishment that I would meet and fall in love with one of the bartenders, the man who, 7+ years later, would become my husband.

That bartender and I eventually moved to Portland Oregon together. A 5 day road trip from Chicago to Portland with a man I had only been in a relationship with for 7 or 8 months. I had never even been to the West Coast when we hit the road, I just trusted the adventure and went with it.
It was everything I had hoped it would be and more! It was all the places I loved combined into one! An eccentric and culturally interesting city surrounded by mountains, rivers, waterfalls, not too far from one of the most breathtaking coast lines I have ever seen in my life! We don’t live there anymore, but I know it’s an adventure we’ll never forget.

As of late I have found myself again restless, again feeling the pull of places outside of my everyday surroundings. This is not surprising. I’ve been focusing on establishing myself in a new career, planning an awesome wedding & getting hitched to an amazing man, dealing with all the highs and lows that life has been throwing at me these days. I have felt myself crumpling under the need to escape, being torn by the overwhelming pull to throw it all aside and go, asking myself “Where have all the adventures gone”? But there is a light up ahead.

A new adventure to new places. Amsterdam & Madrid. We leave Tuesday, and I’ve never even been outside of the United States. This is going to be amazing! ♥


Currently Digging…

Red Hot Hennaed Hair

henna hair

Image by: Ilse

Once upon a time I hennaed my hair. At that time I had been bleaching my hair for years. First it was tangerine bright (courtesy of the bleach base I was hennaing over), and after another coat of henna it was a deep burgundy meets auburn. It was probably a beautiful color, but I just wasn’t ready for it. Because I did it properly (using body-art quality henna from Mehandi), the henna was not going to budge. I tried to bleach it out and simply went back to tangerine. I dyed over it with brown and ended up with auburn locks again. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is despite how damaged my hair was prior to henna, it became more healthy looking and feeling with each henna treatment. Done correctly, this stuff works wonders… but done correctly your hair will be hennaed until you grow or cut out said hennaed hair. So, be smarter than I was: test the color first and be sure you’re ready for the commitment.
For a free e-book from Mehandi on how to henna hair correctly, click here.

The Great Lake Swimmers “Your Rocky Spine”

This song is so beautiful it kills me. I was introduced to the Great Lake Swimmers while hunting down music for my wedding reception. I’m a sucker for banjo (shut it!), the vocals are perfect for this piece, and more than anything, the lyrics are stunning. The words reach inside me and wake something up. If I have a favorite song of all time, this might be it.

 Re-reading my collection of Anaïs Nin

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Born in 1903 France to a Spanish-Cuban pianist/composer father and a French-Danish classically trained vocalist mother, Anais was a woman way ahead of her time! Her writing includes autobiographical journals, fictional short stories, erotica, novels, essays and critical studies, all of which are magnificently insightful and fascinating!

Chia Seeds in everything!

Forget weight-loss claims & stick to the facts: chia seeds are a source of omega-3, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and minerals. They probably aren’t the holy grail of all foods & they won’t fix everything from your love handles to your broken heart, but chances are that they would be a healthy addition to most diets.

I’ve been enjoying them in my yogurt, but I hear tell that they are great in smoothies as well! Clif Bar now makes a super tasty Kit’s Organic vanilla lemon chia bar that is soy, dairy and gluten free with no added sugar. I have tried it (multiple times!) and it is a definite win.
chia bar

(Ingredients: organic dates, organic pumpkin seeds, organic chia seeds, organic lemon juice concentrate, organic apples, sea salt, organic vanilla beans, organic rosemary extract, organic lemon oil)


Natural Perfumes That Evoke Nature

noses copyIt’s no secret that chemicals in conventional perfumes are of questionable safety at best. Sure they smell fabulous, but there are natural options that smell as fabulous, if not better!

The beautiful thing about natural perfumes is the ease with which they elicit moods & memories tied to places in nature.

Read on to discover 9 natural perfumes which are sure to transport you on an aroma holiday!

Looking for a natural perfume that conjures thoughts of kelp beds, salted wind, warm sand & sun-kissed skin? Below, from left to right, you’ll find: Artemisia Natural Perfume’s Ondine, Roxana Illuminated Perfume’s GreenWitch, & For Strange Women’s Sand Dollar.

(Click on any of the images below to learn more about the scent pictured)

If you’re feeling more like a woodland goddess (or god!) than a sea siren, the following scents are sure to please. For natural perfumes that inspire dreams of resinous trees, rich soil & damp leaves, try Woodland Botanica’s Moorland, Osmia Organics’ Juniper Fire, or For Strange Women’s November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest.

If however, you are in no mood for untamed wilds, and the sigh of jasmine, the breath of rose, and the snap of crushed green plants calls to you, then perhaps a botanical garden brimming with flowers is where you’d be most at home! Try Moondance by Anya’s Garden, Wild Roses by Aftelier Perfume, or Moss Gown by Providence Perfume Company.

These scents are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the natural options available in the perfume world. Sample away, I have no doubt you will be amazed at just how unique and magical some of your discoveries will be!


Phytochemicals Part 2: Carotenoids

carotenoidsIf you missed part 1 of the series on phytochemicals, you can find it here.

Today I’m going to write about carotenoids: what they are, what they can do for you, & which foods you can get them from.

I’m also going to share some recipe ideas to help you get more of these types of foods into your diet.

Carotenoids are a group of phytochemicals including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, amongst others. Carotenoid rich diets are believed to result in reduced risks of age-related eye diseases, certain cancers (prostate & cervical for example), and cardiovascular disease.

Some carotenoid supplements have actually been shown to have negative effects, especially on smokers. Smokers receiving large dose supplementation of beta-carotene had an increase in cancer risk, rather than a decrease. So, as emphasized in part 1, avoid the antioxidant/phytochemical supplements! Maintain a healthy varied diet and your body will reap the rewards.

Oh, and also: don’t smoke cigarettes. Seriously. If you’re going to smoke them, you’re probably wasting your time trying to eat healthy… it’d be like smoking and doing yoga at the same time. Entertaining? Yes. Logical? No.

Food sources for carotenoids include deep-green, red, and orange fruits and veggies such as:

  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • apricots
  • cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • spinach
  • kale
  • pumpkin
  • butternut squash
  • tomatoes
  • red peppers
  • mangoes

(Above list is by no means extensive)

Options for including these items in your diet are limitless! To get you started I scouted out a handful of ideas. I attempted to avoid recipes that were overly complex or had lengthy lists of ingredients. I have tried versions of almost all of these and they were definitely to my liking!

carotenoid recipe round up

1.) My favorite way to incorporate carotenoids into my diet? Juicing. I make myself a batch of juice each evening so that it is ready for me when I wake up the following morning. My juice blend is based primarily around organic carrots & I add variety by including things like lemons, limes, cucumbers, pears, ginger root, you name it. This juice energizes me without the subsequent crash that caffeine causes. Need some ideas for juice recipes? The internet is bursting with them. Here are a few pages I dug up for you:

2.) Another recipe I love: Roasted Carrots Seasoned With Herbs. This recipe is especially nice if you can get a hold of heirloom carrots in a variety of colors. In this version rosemary is used, but the seasoning is limited only by your imagination. Fennel seeds are another I’ve tried with great success.

3.) Need a nutritious breakfast (or brunch)? These Egg & Kale Cups are a way to get some dark green leafies without feeling like a rabbit.

4.) For a dish combining the benefits of kale and butternut squash, try this skillet recipe. This one is garnished with pumpkin seeds, but I imagine walnuts, pine nuts, or even cashews would be wonderful as well!

5.) For a Mediterranean take on the sweet potato, try this Baked Sweet Potato Stuffed with Feta, Olives & Sun Dried Tomatoes. Again, you can follow this recipe to the letter or you can let it inspire you. There are countless filling options that would work here!

6.) It’s true that melons taste perfect as is, no recipe needed. But if you’ve ever had a cantaloupe smoothie before, you might know why it’s worth the added effort to throw that melon in the blender. There are variations of melon smoothie recipes all over the web, but this Pumpkin Pie Cantaloupe Smoothie sounded especially tasty to me!

Stay tuned for Part 3 where I will discuss the what, why & how of flavonoids.


Phytochemicals Part 1: What You Need to Know & Why Antioxidant Supplements are a Scam

tomatoThink this is the first time you’ve heard of phytochemicals? Think again.

Think you can live without phytochemicals? Sure, but it won’t be pretty.

Think that supplement you’re taking has got you covered? Chances are you’re wasting your cash.

This post is the first in a series of 6 which will answer all of these questions and more. My aim is to help you stop wasting your money on antioxidant supplements (or keep you from starting), and share with you the ways you can effectively incorporate phytochemicals into your diet.

Phytochemicals have been talked about under the guise of many other names: antioxidants, catechins, isoflavones, flavonoids, flavanols, flavanones, carotenoids, polyphenols, phenolic acids, the list goes on and on and on.

The literal translation of the word phytochemical is plant chemicals (phyto meaning plant). Phytochemicals are compounds which occur naturally in plants and are believed to provide protection to plants from various injuring agents (ie: microbes, insects, UV light, and so on).

Phytochemicals are not considered nutrients and therefore are not considered necessary to sustain life. This, coupled with the fact that there is still much we do not know about phytochemicals, is the reason there is no established daily recommended intake.

So if we don’t need phytochemicals to survive, then why should we worry about it? I assume you are reading this post because you want to do more than survive, you want to thrive. Diets rich in foods containing phytochemicals have been shown to reduce the risk of developing health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and other forms of age-related functional decline. You see, while they don’t sustain life, they do sustain quality of life!

Some of the health-promoting benefits of phytochemicals include:

  • The reduction of inflammation inked to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis
  • Detoxification of carcinogens
  • The slowing of tumor cell growth and the destruction of cancer cells
  • Enhancement of immune function in addition to antibacterial and antiviral activity
  • Lowering blood lipids, blood clotting, and blood pressure which all equate to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease

So why not just take a pill that contains some phytochemicals and be done with it? Studies have found that phytochemicals interact with each other within the body producing effects which cannot be recreated by one phytochemical alone. For example: whole tomatoes where shown to reduce prostate cancer risk in rats, whereas lycopene on it’s own did not. Clinical trials examining phytochemical supplements rarely indicate the same benefits which are observed with high intake of plant foods. AND why take a pill when it’s simple to incorporate countless phytochemicals into the diet just by eating a variety of fruits, veggies, nuts and legumes? One carrot contains more than 100 phytochemicals. Show me a pill that can provide that kind of nourishment!

Another thing to remember about dietary supplements is that unlike drugs, which require testing prior to being sold, companies manufacturing supplements are not required to prove to the FDA that a supplement is safe or effective. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot more confident incorporating a tomato into my diet than a “lycopene” pill that is unproven, unstudied, and potentially even unsafe.

So how do we ensure that our diets are rich in a variety of phytochemicals? The next installment in this series will explore carotenoids. I will share the specific benefits associated with carotenoids in addition to foods, recipes, and ideas to incorporate their beneficial affects into your life. Don’t miss the next installment; follow to receive updates as soon as a new post is fired off!


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Product Review: Neem & Shea Scalp Recovery Shampoo by Alaffia

alaffia scalp recoveryToday I’d like to share with you one of my favorite skin and hair care companies: Alaffia, and one of my favorite products from their line: Alaffia’s Neem & Shea Scalp Recovery Shampoo.

I avoid being too superficial about my appearances. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I don’t want something so unimportant to become more important than it should be. Basically, I’ve learned when to step away from the mirror… this was not always the case. That said, my hair has become one of my favorite features. It’s long, it’s what I would call healthy, and when I take it down from a set of hot rollers, it receives compliments all day long. I feel that much of my current hair health is courtesy of a now healthy scalp. I went through a phase where, thanks to genetics, this seemed like a lost cause. As a baby I apparently had cradle cap (thank goodness I don’t remember that!) and in my mid 20’s I seemed only capable of having an overly dry scalp or an overly oily one. At some point I made a lucky discovery: Alaffia’s Neem & Shea Scalp Recovery Shampoo. I’m not saying this stuff is going to work a miracle for everyone, but it works beautifully for me, and I freaking love it. If, like me, you are someone whose scalp could use some TLC, this might be just the product for you as well.

alaffia neem shea scalp shampoo 2

As if the quality of their products was not enough, Alaffia is a company founded on some truly inspiring principles. This company was created in order to aid West African communities in becoming more sustainable by utilizing the fair trade of their indigenous resources. Alaffia creates community projects, such as women’s cooperatives, to empower the individuals within these communities. Through the sales of their products, Alaffia has raised funds for projects which are aimed at alleviating poverty and building gender equality in central Togo. Some of the project focuses include Bicycles for Education, Maternal Health, School Supplies & Repairs, and Reforestation & Environment. Want a closer look at the people behind Alaffia? Watch this short film for an inspiring inside look at Alaffia and it’s founders.

Round-up: 12 Great Ideas for Valentine’s Day!

After the barrage of winter holidays, Valentine’s Day can seem to sneak up on us from out of nowhere. While many choose to skip this occasion, it is a great opportunity to show not only that special someone how you feel, but to acknowledge close friends and family as well. Whether you plan to purchase a gift for your Valentine, or do-it-yourself for that extra personal touch, ideas abound on the internet. I am here today to share some of my favorite ideas with you!

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If you plan to shell out cash this Valentine’s Day, why not do so in a way that supports independent artists and small business owners? Etsy is a treasure trove of unique and beautiful items which have been lovingly crafted by hand. The Etsy mission is to “re-imagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world”.  Now, who can’t get behind a statement like that?

1. For a gift they can wear close to their hearts, give your bestie or your sweetheart Love Schac’s Sterling Silver Double Pendant Necklace. This necklace has style that can work in any situation, casual or elegant.

2. If you really want to surprise him or her with something beautiful AND unique, why not a set of Custom Couple Portraits by Llore Pemberton?

3. Your gluten-free or vegan valentine shouldn’t have to miss out on all the fun! Try theGFCookie’s Cookie BOMBS in chocolate hazelnut or peanut butter. (The peanut butter flavor is dairy free & is also available in a vegan version!)

4. Instead of a big bouquet, spend your money on a gorgeous vase that will be around long after the flowers have faded. I’m a fan of Wapa Studio’s unique White Porcelain Vases. Pop in a few choice blooms and let the vase steal the show.

5. Want some masculine bling for the man in your life? Try Dream City Jewels’ Personalized Brass ID Leather Bracelet. It’s simple and tough looking, a combo sure to satisfy most men (and the personalized initials will make him think of you every time he sees it).

6. With beard oils ranging in scent from Tobacco or Black Coffee to Fresh Cut Grass or Sicilian Lemon, there is something for the bearded man in everyone’s life at The Bearded Man Company.

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For the Do-It-Yourselfer: whether basic or elaborate, there are Valentine themed tutorials all over the web. I searched out a handful to share with all of you!

7. These festive little owls are built around toilet paper rolls. What a fun way to recycle!

8. Whether it’s a long distance relationship with your best friend or with the love of your life, these state themed mugs will brighten their mornings with thoughts of you. Complete the package with some of their favorite coffee or tea!

9. Dream of a Valentine’s Day picnic, but know the weather outdoors won’t allow for it? Create a romantic hideaway indoors instead!

10. What better way to wish your quirky friends a happy Valentine’s Day than with equally quirky customized Valentines? Thanks to some handy tracing tips, you need not be an artist to pull these portraits off!

11. For a Valentine breakfast to satisfy your kids (or any Valentine who is a kid at heart), try this creative version of eggs in the nest!

12. Want to be your own Valentine? Create a custom pair of heart print jeans for yourself! As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure these would look great year round, not just on Valentine’s Day!