Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New You

We are back up and running! So pop the bubbly and toast to a happy, healthy New Year!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Treating Vegetables Like Meat

Last Spring, chef April Bloomfield was all over the Williams Sonoma website. The site featured her recipe for something of a pea mash and told her backstory of a British upbringing (it was here that I learned of London's River Café and immediately subscribed to their YouTube channel). And I was surprised that for a chef renown for her work with meat (her first cookbook is entitled A Girl and Her Pig) Bloomfield seems just at home in the world of veggies. Indeed, her most recent cookbook is entitled A Girl And Her Greens. But like many successful people, this particular chef does not reinvent the wheel when switching between the taxonomic kingdoms of animalia and plantae. Indeed, I've read in The New York Times that Bloomfield essentially, "treats a vegetable as if it were meat," her first love. This notion got me thinking that while I love my veggies, I often miss out on the savory sauces and methodical methods employed in the creation of a meat dish. So along with a review of Bloomfield's recipe for "Whole Pot Roasted Cauliflower With Tomatoes and Anchovies", I've also listed some of my favorite veggies and the cuts of meat with which they compare (in my opinion). I've also addresses ways in which such veggies may be prepared when treated like meat. Enjoy!

The Breslin: one of Bloomfield's several restaurants in the United States.

Whole Pot Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Anchovies: As stated before, Bloomfield essentially, "treats a vegetable as if it were meat." In the above recipe, Bloomfield calls for the cook to brown both sides of a cauliflower head in a pan, much like one might brown a breast of chicken before roasting it in the oven. An just as one creates a sauce which incorporates meat drippings for added flavor, the recipe's next step calls for the cook to add garlic, diced tomatoes, white wine and chilies (among other things) to the pot to form a savory sauce that will later be used to braise the cauliflower as it roasts in the oven. All in all, this recipe reminds me of another one of my favorites from the New York Times: Daniel Boulud's Chicken Tagine. Like Boulud, Bloomfield uses a similar process of cooking of but no meat. C'est bien!

Vegetable Dijonnaise: For me, broth is a cornerstone of my cooking. I love basting things in it, reducing it for sauce and using it to make soups. And while cubes of chicken bullion are generally a (dietary) luxury I afford myself, I often try to make broth on my own. Partly, I love the challenge of making anything taste as good as bullion and partly, I like trying to sneak herbs into my dishes in ways other than an ancillary garnish. So I was intrigued when I read a menu at Bar Bouchée in Connecticut which featured mussels in a Dijon mustard broth. Could this be a broth that contained more flavor than parsley and onions boiled in water? Unfortunately, when I searched for the broth's recipe online, I only met with recipes for mussels containing some variation of a mustard sauce or broth. However, some vegetables, such as peppers, leeks or even cabbage can be treated more as seafood than meat, proper. With a similar delicacy that strays from high temperatures and/or harsh cooking methods, I though vegetables would work as a great substitution for mussels in Food52's Mussles Dijonnaise

The recipe (link here) starts simply enough by sauteing onions, garlic and shallots in butter (although, I substituted the butter for oil) and proceeds to have chefs add, "mussels, salt, pepper, bay leaf, thyme, white wine and cream," to the pot (the last of which I omitted). Following the recipe's simplicity, the chef is to let the ingredients simmer for several minutes, remove the mussels and let the sauce boil down further. Here, however, instead of using the recipe's requisite three quarts of mussels, I substituted three bell peppers (of any color) and two leeks but I'd imagine any combination of vegetables would be just as lovely... and tasty.

Bean Cassoulet: When you learn about cooking from scratch (no pun intended) it's hard to escape learning about the French style. And while this style originated from Italian influences (see The New Yorker's Secret Ingredients) it is simply the standard bearer of (Western) cuisine. I don't cook much in the French style but I do like to look at certain recipes. It's hard not to be intrigued by a ragout over a stew, even though they're essentially the same thing. So when I came across a recipe for a cassoulet, I was intrigued indeed.

Cassouleeeeeet, as Will Ferrell (impersonating Robert Gouleeeeet) might say.

As Winter is fast approaching, I've been intrigued not only by the idea of a cassoulet but with the concept of eating cleaner meats, ones that have been raised humanely and without much antibiotics or added hormones (see Days Between Days for John Oliver's update on what you might be eating). I remember reading in Bill Buford's Heat (where he details his tenure in a high-class kitchen) about preparing a pork shoulder by allowing the heat to slowly tenderize it over the course of many hours. Such an image seems symbiotic with the cold days of Winter. So when I saw that pork shoulder was included in a cassoulet, I knew it was a recipe I wanted to try. The thing is, a cassoulet calls for a lot of meat; not just pork shoulder but bacon and chorizo as well (depending on the recipe). Essentially, a cassoulet requires a lot of meat for someone who doesn't eat much of it and doesn't make much money. But the recipe also calls for beans: Great Northern or small white beans. And with the dish's method of slowly simmering ingredients in a wine and tomato broth with onions and herbs, I figured that adjusting ingredients and using beans alone would make for a satisfying, hearty dish. Thomas Keller provides a great cassoulet recipe through the Williams-Sonoma website (found here). Simply adjust ingredients as you see fit to make your own version of a cassoulet. 

So there you have it: a post that took me way too long to write. Hope you enjoy the recipes and that they are just as satisfying as any meat dish. And for shits and giggles, here is the New York Times recipe for roasted cauliflower in which you are instructed to, "eat.. like a good steak." Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Is it Less Healthy to be a Girl?

It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A month which focuses on a disease that is, according to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, "the second leading cause of death among women," (around 2,190 men are diagnosed each year according to the same source). But while we engage in walks, galas or watch telecasts devoted to the issue, a few simple questions can be asked in our own lives to see if we are doing our best to prevent (all types of) cancers in ourselves or in those around us. Of course, there are the well known adages that we not smoke or spend time in the sun unprotected but as I wrote Antiperspirants, Alternatives this summer, I seemed to come across new ideas that lent knowledge to other possible causes of the disease.

Note: Like all posts, this one in particular is to be noted as opinion, not as medical fact.

 Even the NFL celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In Antiperspirants, Alternatives, I addressed the rumor that antiperspirants play a role in the development of (most often breast) cancer. While some research showed that women who used antiperspirants from an earlier age (as well as began shaving their underarms at an earlier age and more often) were more likely to develop breast cancer than others, there were issues with control groups in the experiment and generally agreed upon that antiperspirants do not lead to cancers. While I was relived to learn my bottle of Ban was not bad on the breasts, the notion of women being more susceptible to cancer because of their shaving practices left me a little stunned.

"Cleopatra, coming at ya."

Since time immemorial, women have likely devoted more energy to their appearance than men. Yesterday, I read on Into the Gloss that olive and sesame oils were favored in Cleopatra's beauty routine thousands of years ago. In general, women rid themselves of their body hair, wear makeup and lotion and wear tighter clothing (compared to men). And while these elements may make us feel good, I believe it's important to ask ourselves, "at  what cost?" Below, I address the three practices above (removal of body hair, the application of makeup and tight clothing) as well as how they can affect our health. Enjoy!

Body Hair Removal: A few Februaries ago, I read a hilarious story in The Onion entitled, "20000 Tons of Pubic Hair Trimmed in Preparation for Valentine's Day." Indeed, this practice, particularly among women, seems more ubiquitous than ever before. But what is the effect of such a process that removes something meant to protect us? While many of us no longer live in the wild bush (no pun intended), "[h]uman body hairs... collectively serve as a protective warning device," according to Indeed, in 2013, the Huffington Post ran an article quoting dermatologist Jessica Krant, who claimed that, "hairs really are attached very firmly to their roots and are a part of our body." To this extent, the article explains that when our skin is damaged (in this case through the practice of waxing) it can make us more susceptible to infection, either sexually transmitted or otherwise. And while the study referenced in Antiperspirants, Alternatives was disregarded because it seemed to lack a control group of women who did not have cancer, the shaving of one's underarms seemed to be a variable in the process. Not fact. Just food for thought.

Makeup: In You Go Daddy-O, I spoke of how my father was and is still very anti-makeup. When I was young, he would say, "you don't need that stuff. You're a natural beauty." And today, he simply says something akin to, "that shit is bad for you." Indeed, most makeup is loaded with chemicals. Even the brands that claim to be "natural" contain ingredients like Bismuth Oxychloride. According to another article published by the Huffington Post in 2013, makeup artist Katey Denno claimed that, "[o]ut of 1,000 carcinogens the EU has banned, the US only banned 9 of them." Furthermore, scientists have "improved" chemicals in makeup which have made them "smaller and stronger" thus making it easier for them to penetrate our skin. And for a culture that lauded Amy Schumer's SNL monologue this weekend which claimed young women need role models other than the Kardashians who, "take the faces they were born with as, like, a light suggestion," we also spend billions of dollars on makeup (and healthcare) annually. Coincidence?

While the form may change, the female figure has been valued for quite some time.

Tight Clothes: There's an old adage that tight clothing (and 7UP) harm the family jewels in men but not much is talked about the effect such clothing has on women. Indeed, it was at an all girl's camp, where I first heard that eschewing undergarments while you slept was actually good for your health. As I got older, I began to hear similar words spouted by those in the medical field. And even in the hazy world of conspiracy theories, I've found it entertaining to read that some think the handbag industry plays a role in maintaining tight clothes for women so that they don't begin carrying around wallets in their pockets.

Like makeup, the female form as been valued for ages. And why not? It's quite beautiful. But, like makeup, at what cost do we feature it as part of an unspoken trend? This area gets a bit sticky. I truly believe women should wear what they want (subscribing, like men, to the general rules of formality and informality depending on the occasion). I don't think women should hide their figures or feel pressure to flaunt them. It's all about choice. And "wear" our health is concerned, information is key.

C'est possible?

According to an article (read here) published by CBS News, garments such as Spanx and skinny jeans can go so far as to cause nerve damage or simply meralgia paresthetica which is a general numbness in the thigh. Abdominal pain can also occur, according to Dr. John Michael Li, a neurologist featured in the article. In general, I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to put up with such discomfort for the sake of fashion.

In conclusion, is it less healthy to be a girl? I suppose the decision is up to the individual. We all face choices as men and women. Making the choice that's best for us should not be something gender specific. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Tinier Vessels

Thus far, I've written two articles on the topic of (beauty) bottles... particularly on the materials from which they are composed. In Oil My Goodness, I spoke about a greater reliance on glass bottles over plastic ones. In Poppin' Bottles, I spoke about the best way to use glass bottles in transit (often to and from yoga class). And while, from a political perspective, I may be seen as poo-pooing oil and favoring glass bottles while I enjoy my soy-latte and wear my thick rimmed glasses (they're real, I swear!) it really comes down to a matter of price.

From an environmental perspective, I do favor glass bottles over plastic ones. While I realize that a local-craftsman is likely not hand-blowing each jar I use from recycled sea-glass, I enjoy the fact that glass jars tend to leach less chemicals into their contents and, as price may tell, such aforementioned contents tend to be of better quality than those delivered in plastic bottles. Indeed, Into the Gloss has published articles informing readers how to best display their often high-end, glass-encased contents in the bathroom (see What To Do When The Lighting In Your Bathroom Sucks). For myself, these articles go a bit too far in the vanity of showcasing expensive products (and in simply owning them). Baking soda and vinegar work just fine as an exfoliant or de-greaser (respectively) but we still need something to keep these products in. And, while I sometimes roll my eyes about articles which help one showcase the fact they have high amounts of discretionary income, most articles on Into the Gloss are extremely helpful including the piece of beauty advice which suggests that one buy products in bulk and decant them into smaller containers (that particular author relied on Muji containers). Indeed, since I like getting a bargain (and natural beauty products) I tend to buy said baking soda and vinegar in bulk and decant them into smaller (glass) containers. Therefore, it's truly a crescendo of cost-saving fireworks when I can place these products in reusable glass bottles for free (and, you know, help the environment at the same time). As such, below is a list of several products contained in nice glass bottles which can be reused and applied to your beauty routine. Enjoy!

Argo Tea: top shelf to the right and straight on 'till morning.

Argo Tea: On the first day of school this year, I was running late yet still found time to get into a gas station in search of a caffeine fix. As I browsed the shelves of sugary sodas, I came across a bottle of iced, green tea. While it wasn't caffeinated, I was intrigued by its slender, glass bottle which I couldn't believe I could keep afterwards. While it could easily be reused as a water bottle, I use it to hold essential oils whilst I'm in the shower. Just a few drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil and some steam from the shower can transform your morning (or evening) routine into some next level shit.

Dessert Coupes (Dog Tag Bakery): This description is not about dessert coupes per se but about the vessels they are contained in. If you live in the D.C. area, the Dog Tag Bakery is a great place to visit. Not only does it provide its patrons with delicious baked goods, it also helps disabled veterans get back into the workforce! Several weeks ago, I was looking for something small and quick to provide a much needed afternoon snack and the bakery's dessert coupe certainly provided. At around $3.25, I received a delicious chocolate mouse, and as I got it to go, I was able to keep the small, glass container in it came. Long after the dessert had been devoured, I now use the jar to store my baking soda which I use as both a cleaning and beauty product in the bathroom.

Baking soda and its bottle.

So there you have it, a small list of products one can use to gain a glass jar in the process. While the list is edited and may only apply if you live in D.C., I hope it gets you thinking about (re)using glass bottles to "beautify" both your bathroom and the environment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Eighty-percent" of life is just showing up." ~ Woody Allen

Friday, October 2, 2015

Spa (Week)days

I've always loved the jingle featured on Family Guy which contains the line, "why do you brush your teeth at work? Like you're gonna kiss someone at 3:00..." Indeed, I judge people who brush their teeth at work and I was dismayed when a group of dentists came to visit our school in third grade and told us we should brush after lunch (using those gunk-adhering tablets to display the amount of residue left behind after eating). I hate brushing my teeth even with my Sonicare toothbrush which makes them feel like they've experienced a Swedish massage after brushing. So I was happy to find that even if one refuses to brush their teeth at work there are alternate ways to extend one's beauty routines into the workday.

A long time ago, in Tervis, I wrote about how water serves as my main "food group". Indeed, we need proteins, vitamins and other things to survive but water carries such a multitude of benefits that it's the "product" I consume the most. According to WebMD, drinking around eight cups of water a day can help, "control calories... energize muscles... and/[or] keep your skin looking good." Accordingly, water can benefit us both inside and out. Below: a few ways in which I use water to help me both internally and externally during the (work)day.

Mouth Wash: As stated above, I hate brushing my teeth. Knowing I'm not one to use a toothbrush until dusk sets in  (and that I start my day with a double, soy espresso) my dentist suggested I simply rinse my mouth with water following my morning coffee. Indeed, as I sip coffee throughout the day, I am sure to follow it with a hefty swig of water to keep my pearly whites pearly until I can brush off any remaining residue.

"Steam Bath": As a teacher, the term "spa day" really isn't in my vocabulary. While I'm down for the occasional beauty treatment, spending an entire day and/or paycheck devoted to the spa seems unreasonable. Plus, the core of most spa treatments can be conducted at home (or at work) on the cheap. As such, the steam bath is a luxury one can access at work while sitting at the desk.

While I often judge people for brushing their teeth at work, I realize I am likely also judged for my tea station set up in the classroom of a coworker. A few years ago, I started bringing in honey to accompany the copious amounts of hot water obtained from the water cooler nearby. After bringing honey, I began to bring in loose tea... which needed and infuser and after reading Drink Pretty: The Morning Detox Tea on Into the Gloss, I now have a bar replete with turmeric and fresh ginger. Several days ago, I filled a glass with boiling water and as I let it cool, held it uncovered against my chest for several minutes. As I held my bkr bottle close, I noticed the steam rise up and moisten my face, giving me the sensation of a mini-facial. Indeed, states that, "[steam] loosens dirt and debris lodged in the pores." And while most at-home steam baths call for the recipient to place a towel over their head and their head directly over a bowl of hot water (see Steam Your Way to Clearer Skin), allowing steam to float up onto my face made it feel just as good. If you can, just try to give your face a "steam bath" before lunch so you can wipe your face with a towelette afterwards (to remove any remaining residue) and enjoy some tea with your lunch!

Muy caliente y muy bueno.

Un Digestif: Several days before my "steam bath" discovery, I held my warm bkr bottle to my sternum as I assisted students in P.E. class (where you do a lot of standing). As I did, I noticed my lunch, eaten just several minutes before class seemed to burn up in my stomach as though the hot water in the bottle boosted my metabolism into high-gear. Indeed, according to Dr. Michael Wald (via, "hot water may increase body temperature and may therefore increase the metabolic rates slightly." Paraphrasing his words, a metabolism kicked into high gear can burn more calories over the course of a day. Furthermore, Wald states that, "[t]he increased metabolic rate may help the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys function more effectively," ultimately leading to detoxification. To this extent, while I try to drink hot water throughout the day (mainly to raise my body temperature) I especially try to drink it after lunch (with some honey, of course).

So there you have it. A few ways you can add spa-like treatments to what can sometimes be an arduous workday while saving money on the way. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


When I was recently on a yoga retreat in Mexico, I spent time around people who ate very well. Not necessarily in the conventional sense of rich dishes that would give one gout. Rather, most of them were vegetarian or tried to eat clean foods; good for both their bodies and the environment. It was here that I learned about the idea of pistachio milk. While explaining that I often made almond milk from raw almonds (see Homefaking) a fellow yogi introduced me to the concept of pistachio milk which I quickly latched onto due to my preference for pistachios over almonds (although almonds contain a fair amount of magnesium which can help regulate cortisol levels in the body). Several weeks ago, I bought some pistachios from the bulk-goods section (not wanting to pay the full amount for a full box of nuts) shelled them and covered the unsalted pistachios in water in anticipation of what would later be a delicious, blended concoction. While shelling said pistachios, however, I remembered a use for shells in the back of my mind. Was this memory associated with the coffee-ground scrub I read about on Into the Gloss? Could these shells be used for another purpose?

Note the unscratched container pre-blending.

If you're a "person of a certain age" (like me) you probably remember your grandparents doing things in a more "natural" way (indeed, my grandmother cooked chicken soup from scratch- in four inch heels). Since trends often take some time to catch on (indeed, I've heard estimates as high as 4,500 years for the amount of time it took the Agricultural Revolution to catch on) and we can place the Industrial Revolution around the mid nineteenth-century, grandparents who were born in the 20's and 30's likely remember and grew up using more natural ingredients for what we now use anything made by Procter and Gamble for. I believe my grandmother was the one who suggested rinsing my hair with cider vinegar for added shine and indeed, star chef, Marcus Samuelson has been quoted as saying, "[my grandmother] would say, we're gonna do roasted chicken, the next day we're gonna do chicken soup and the third day, we're gonna do chicken dumplings". Such was perhaps the mindset of people who did not have three convenient grocery stores within the vicinity of three square miles. And, to some extent, I love this mindset. I love using the most of what I have. Mostly it's good for the environment but mainly, it's good for my budget. So when I found myself with a bowl-full of pistachio shells, I knew I could use them for something.

While I enjoy the "natural" mindset of yesteryear, I'll admit that I do seek help from contemporary tools. While our grandparents may have been reduced to mortar and pestles in their youth to crush ingredients, I am the now-impoverished owner of a Vitamix blender which could essentially blend a brick. Thinking that I would pulverize said shells into a "rough dust" that could be used for exfoliation, I quickly gave them a spin in my Vitamix, only to have them scratch up the blender's container and looking more like sharp shards at the end: nothing I'd want to get near my skin. It was at this point, I realized that I had originally read about using eggshells to clean residue off the interior of a wine decanter (see Tiny Vessels). Moral of the story... shells can be used as a natural cleaning product, just remember which one.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Chakra Khan

I want to start doing videos to accompany this blog, mostly having to do with the development and maintenance of chakras or centers of energy in the body (according to Ayurvedic tradition). When I was in college, I was forced to take a one-credit karate class in order to fulfill my graduation requirements (it was not so much the class as it was the credit I needed). I would change into my gi or formal uniform and awkwardly walk several blocks to the studio in town trying my best to avoid detection. While I was happy to take what I thought was a blow-off class to finish off my academic career in leisurely style, I quickly became aware that the class was anything but a waste of time. It was here, at a small karate studio in Harrisonburg, Virginia, that I gained my first exposure to the traditions of Eastern Medicine. While not going into too much depth, we learned about the meridians of Chinese Medicine and how they could be applied within the context of self-defense. Meridians, as I remember from class, are certain connections in the body that, when blocked, can be lethal to an opponent (or, if you're an asshole, could be lethal to a non-opponent). According to the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, meridians are essentially "energy highways" in which your "Qi" or energy flows. I'd previously been familiarized with the concept of of Qi (pronounced chee) through my father's Tai Chi practice and indeed it is the pressure points of the meridians which are accessed in the practice of acupuncture. And as in work with chakras, both Tai Chi and acupuncture seek to keep the flow of energy unblocked throughout the body in order to generally stave off bodily ills. Just as stagnant water might develop issues with growth and bacteria, the above practices seek to keep our Qi moving like a river where it can push away toxins as opposed to feeding them (drinking water can't hurt in this process, either).

Upon hearing about meridians, I was immediately struck by the connectivity of this concept compared to the seeming isolation of Western medicine with its focus on the nervous system or the gastrointestinal system, the heart or head. Indeed, the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences states that:

It is tempting to think of the meridians of the human body the same way as we think of the circulatory system as the meridians are responsible for the distribution of the basic substances throughout the body just like the circulatory system, but here is where the similarities end. Conventional anatomy and physiology would not be able to identify these pathways in a physical sense in the way that blood vessels can be identified.

And just as Eastern Medicine, I assume, refers more to the intangibles in the body (just like Asian parents focus more on teaching their children intangible verbs as opposed to tangible nouns) it also places a greater emphasis on the concept of balance. This is where ideas of yin and yang come in. In the system of meridians, energy flows along channels, each of which has a yin and yang counterpart. According to the above academy, "Qi flows from the chest area along the three arm Yin channels (Lung, Pericardium, and Heart) to the hands. There they connect with the three paired arm Yang channels (Large Intestine, San Jiao and Small Intestine) and flow upward to the head." But as we move West towards the Indian subcontinent (where the Ayurvedic tradition began) we see the fading of ideas regarding yin and yang and the emergence of a new balance between Eastern and Western Medicine.

When I taught eighth-grade Social Studies, students wanted to know why we had to learn about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Indeed, the hierarchy may seem intuitive to a child who, by definition, may be more impulsive in meeting their needs (this is why few may classify Donald Trump as an actual adult). But I have found, ironically, this hierarchy becomes more complicated to an adult who may seek to put the needs of others before themselves (toddler probz) or is faced with difficult decisions where certain energies (or needs) are blocked due to fear or uncertainly (maybe you didn't take the job you wanted because you hoped for a more predictable cash flow, etc. Again, this is why no one would classify Donald Trump as an adult). The chakras, as I have found, correspond quite well to Maslow's Hierarchy (a veritable pillar of Western Psychology) which, I think, makes the idea of energy centers more accessible to Westerners in general.

 Adult goals?

Ironically, the most helpful video I've found on the topic of chakras comes in the form of a cartoon called The Last Airbender (can be found in the video below: it's actually pretty good - and accurate). However, chakras can also be explained quite quickly in writing. I spoke about chakras in Posturing  but will also speak a little about them a little here. More videos and information to come. Enjoy!

Chakras, explained. Enjoy!

Muladhara: Located at the sacrum or "root" of the body. This chakra deals with our basic needs much like Maslow's Hierarchy involving elements which contribute to our survival such as food and water, sleep and a consistent body temperature. According to some holistic practitioners, people often want to attempt to open their final chakra when they start a spiritual practice but just as we can't fulfill our goals of self-esteem if we are malnourished, we can't begin to open our other chakras truly until we unblock the first.

Svadhisthana: The Svadhisthana chakra is located near the public bone and as such deals with creativity. This creativity can be expressed in the form of pro-creation (as its location implies) or simply in creative endeavor. Oftentimes, I wonder if I cook so much because I don't have children. At least I am creating something? I often think of a sea turtle a symbol of Svadhisthana because it lays its eggs under the moon, representing the feminine and lunar energy of the chakra.

Manipura: When people say, "go with your gut", they are talking about the Manipura chakra. Indeed, the chakra is located near the stomach or solar plexus and deals with the themes of confidence and personal power. As such, having confidence to make decisions is dealt with in this chakra as it also is in the third stage of Maslow's Hierarchy.

Anahata: While Manipura deals with what we feel in the gut, Anahata deals with what we feel in our heart and as such encompasses ideas of compassion. When we call someone a "sweetheart" we often mean that they care for the needs of others. Once we care for our own needs, as the previous three chakras dictate, then we can finally care for others as well. I have seen this in my own life as I have felt more secure in the first three chakras.

Vishuddah: The fifth chakra located near the throat and as such, deals with what we say and how we communicate. If we lie (to ourselves or others) and tell un-truths, this chakra can be blocked. And while our body language can unintentionally communicate with others, our intentions count for a lot so Shine a Light or Shine on You Crazy Diamond.

Ajna: The Ajna chakra is located between the eyebrows where the "third eye" is said to be located (and, specifically behind the third cerebral ventricle - Coincidence? I think not). Indeed, Third Eye Blind's early album shows a picture of a woman with her hand over her forehead, covering her "third eye." The third eye is said to be the eye of intuition, sensing that which is invisible to the eye but known to ourselves. The third eye (granted, according to is also said to be associated with the pineal gland which is found in the center of the brain's two hemispheres and is not outside of the blood-brain barrier. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the pineal gland is an aspect of the endocrine (read: hormone) system which plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythms. Shaped like a small pinecone, the pineal gland is said to be referenced in much ancient art as in the sculpture below. 

Pineal gland or pine cone? Let's just say it's a representative pine cone.

Sahaswara: Located at the crown of the head so, enlightenment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In the Buff

In the early 90's, getting a mani-pedi with your mom was not a "thing". In my mind, you were either the equivalent of Paris Hilton or a very lucky birthday girl to be in the nail salon and indeed, my parents poo-pooed such institutions all together (my mom because of her low-maintenance mind-set and my dad due to the rampant use of chemicals). And while I sometimes bummed about my inability to get a manicure (I seemed to have more first world problems as a child), they were at least right about nail salons being generally hazardous (see Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers). Thus, the "Nails" section of Into the Gloss, rarely gained views from my laptop... until recently. It was a simple picture of nude-hued and clear polishes which directed my attention to the article, "Naked - Not Bare Nails." In the article, the author spoke about how nail care (cleaning underneath the nails, trimming your cuticles) can be a routine unto itself outside of making them look pretty with polish. In many instances, she says women who care for their nails (in terms of cleanliness) often favor a nude, buffed look over a well designed or colorful polish. Feeling I belonged (or longed to belong) to the former category of women, I was excited to try out a nude nail look upon my last visit to the nail salon (yes, I'm a bad person).

If you're new to "getting buffed" like myself, you can use this video.

While my intention was to receive a pretty, nude look at the salon, my somewhat puritanical upbringing towards manicures made me forgo polish altogether, focusing more on having my nails cleaned, cut, etc. It was here that my manicurist asked if I wanted to get my nails buffed. Happy to receive anything for free, I obliged and with a swift brush over my nails, they became shiny and looked healthy as the blood rushed to the surface, much in the way it does when Scarlet O'Hara pinches her cheeks in Gone with the Wind (which may define the pivotal moment when I started crushing on natural beauty routines). Indeed, bringing the blood to the surface of any area offers a myriad of benefits both seen and unseen.

In Go With The Flow, I referenced the fact that circulation (and the act of increasing it) can play a significant role in both our health and beauty. As blood delivers nutrients throughout the body, helping to get to places it otherwise would not (read: our extremities) can be helpful. Working to circulate blood through our bodies can boost the health of our hair (via scalp massages), possibly jump-start our lymphatic systems (via dry brushing) and, as I learned recently, can be brought to the surface of the nail through buffing or essentially running a device called a nail buff across the nails. This not only helps our nails look healthy but can also ... According to, "nails are a type of modified skin." As such, I would assume that the process of exfoliation, via buffing, works much like a dry brush in helping to stimulate our circulatory and lymphatic systems which has been suggested might rid our body of toxins. By bringing the blood to the surface of the nails, I'm also hoping, might bring some heat, which would do wonders for my dry cuticles in the winter. Not only does buffing help our nails help to bring a pleasant hue to our finger tips, it keeps us from exposure to harsh chemicals found in nail polish. So get buffed and enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tiny Vessels

I don't think my blog gets a whole lot of readership so it's likely safe to disclose that a "friend" lost her virginity to a song entitled, "Tiny Vessels" (in retrospect, another song should have been in order). But this post deals with the more intriguing topic of the vessels we keep our water in. Upon my return to Washington, I've been looking for inexpensive and natural ways to filter water. I remember seeing a large dispenser with volcanic rocks at a health-food store and was intrigued. But with its hefty price tag, I had to decline. Thus far, I've read of several methods for water filtration which don't require your standard Brita filters (which can sometimes contain chemicals in and of themselves). Some filtration methods are complicated (involving polymers) and some are not (involving sand) but at the end of the day, I figure that boiling water and letting it cool works just fine. To this extent, the question becomes not how we purify our water but how we beautify its presentation.

I've always had a thing for pitchers. I suppose that when I became and adult, I latched on to the concept of "formal dining" as a way to anchor what quickly became the chaos of adult life. Throughout my 20's, while I wasn't necessarily able to control aspects of the dating world or was confronted with conflicts at work, I could always settle in and use my fine China, decant my beverages and condiments into their appropriate containers and cook a good meal. To some extent, I agreed with the theorists who claimed cooking could take you back in time (where, in my mind, perhaps it was more peaceful). It was here that I started collecting pitchers. I took the ones my grandmother was willing to give away and looked for new ones online. As my tastes often ran towards pricey these pitchers often (and to some extent still do) remained safely secured on their respective webpages. But through my browsing, I feel as though I was able to distill a sufficient collection/wish list of pitchers. As Jennifer Aniston suggests, "keep a pitcher of water around your house to remind you to drink up." And if said pitchers be beautiful, all the better.

Pitchers, pitchers everywhere will hold your drops to drink.

William Yeoward-Classic Pitcher (4 quart): I spent a lot of time searching for pitchers online and while my tastes aren't so sophisticated as some that might justify a four-figure Christofle pitcher, I feel William Yeoward (who generally molds his creations from crystal) creates classic, and well made pieces. In my somewhat irrelevant opinion, he is the first name in glassware. His lines are clean and his prices, while expensive, are somewhat approachable to your average person who doesn't mind indulging in economic fantasy. His Classic Pitcher, to me, is a beautiful piece with enough space to hold a lazy-day's worth of water. And at the end of the day, it makes me happy to look at.

Simon Pearce- Barre Pitcher: Simon Pearce essentially produces glassware in Vermont and while his designs are a bit more bulky than those of William Yeoward, the Barre Pitcher is a beautiful creation with an elegant structure. Like the Classic Pitcher, it has clean lines but has a lip that seems to stretch beyond what regular proportion would dictate, much like a ballerina might stretch beyond where we would normally imagine. Just looking at the pitcher makes you want to take a barre class and, of course, drink water in the process.

Orrefors Sweden-Enjoy Carafe: Apparently, when Kevin Spacey holds a cocktail in House of Cards, he holds a glass from Orrefors "Street" Collection. My grandmother gave me my first Orrefors pitcher and I use it throughout the summer. I sometimes use it as a vase, I sometimes use it to hold water, I sometimes use it to make limoncello. Regardless of what I use it for, I like the way it looks and the Enjoy Carafe is no different. It's quite modern with it's lack of handle and asymmetrical design with a slight slant at the top making the entire design fluid. Furthermore, at $60, it's a comparative steal next to other pieces of glassware.

You'll see an Orrefors glass in Spacey's hand!

So there you have it: a few pieces to enhance your drinking experience. And while these pieces make me happy, water pitchers are like people: it's always what's on the inside that counts. So drink up and enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Go With the Flow

Thus far, I've read a lot on beauty, not on color or brow shape but on the process of "beautifying". And upon this cross-study, I've found that a lot of beautifying has to do with circulation. From dry brushes to Vitamin-E oil to doing headstands on the daily, suggestions as to how to stimulate circulation abound. Recently, I bought a comb worth 40 USD (face plant) to help redistribute the oil from my scalp, across my ultra-dry tresses but this money (obviously) was not completely necessary. As I've always thought, our own bodies often work fine in completing the tasks otherwise left to products and/or technology. So before I bought said comb, I debated about weather to buy a manufactured product or simply use my own hands to make my tresses more glossy. In the end, I bought the comb to prevent me from purchasing a more expensive moisturizer but waiting on the decision further reinforced the idea that we can simply use basic ingredients, or even better, our own appendages to "beautify" our appearance (if we ever want to). This notion is especially relevant in the area of circulation.

Compliments of Into the Gloss

In terms of blood flow, a place where blood flows to is the head, what with its concentration of nerve endings. I recall in eleventh-grade science, our teacher telling us that if we ever got cut on our head, we were gonna bleed badly. But the head offers a place where, if we're not cut, we can stimulate circulation in our bodies. In terms of Vitamin-E, I read last week that using the nutrient in oil form can help stimulate circulation when applied to the scalp (see HuffPost article: Vitamin E Oil: Why You Should Use On Your Body With Caution). But, like many products, our hands do the same task just fine. So with this in mind, I've been putting scalp massages on the schedule, not necessarily with other people but on my own time. Shampooing the hair or simply brushing it out with our fingers provides a great opportunity to get the blood flowing in our northernmost region. Referring back to the HuffPost article an, '[increase in] blood flow to the area could help to enhance the health and strength of the hair follicle,' according to a Dr. Broumand. And as stated in Masseuse on the Loose, giving ourselves or our loved ones a massage is somewhat intuitive.

According to, scalp massages help you to relax. De-stressing is good for all of us. It can boost our longevity, fight of illness and lead to a better quality of life. But in the short-term, scalp massages can help rid a flaky scalp of dandruff (particularly when a moisturizing oil is used) or even lead to better sleep (again, according to But what of the effects of increased circulation? Besides the superficial benefits of brightening our complexion (see above photo), increasing circulation carries nutrients throughout the body. In the case of the scalp, such a process can lead to better hair growth and/or healthier hair once the follicle is nourished. In my case, it can also help redistribute oil throughout my head of hair. And, as I have found, massaging your scalp when your hair is dry is a bit easier than in the shower when your hair is wet and matted to your person. Each day when I get home from work (or even at work when I'm stressed), I simply take a few moments to rub my scalp with my fingers using circular motions. And while I'd likely fork over big bucks to have this done at a salon, you're extra lucky if you come home to a loved one who will do this for you for free. And if they need a little assistance in the process, the video below should be a help. Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hold the Phone

In reference to the former Posturing post, I wanted to focus more on a specific aspect of said publication. As I get older I feel lucky in saying, "I'm returning to work," at summer's end. Such is the life of a teacher, we don't necessarily get expense accounts but we get the summers off (which I suppose equals things out in the end). However, as I return to school, I can no longer check my texts from the couch or view my laptop while laying in bed. Joining the rest of the work force, I am sitting or standing for most of the day. And in doing so, posture becomes a "hotter" issue than it might in the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Part of a return from summer means an increased use of my cell phone and by proxy, worse posture. Loads of yoga and more time "posture practicing" in the summer often leads to a more aligned spine and better breath as I find air can flow naturally from my lungs to nose rather than detour through a crooked neck that's always hunched over a phone. Last year, my first visit to the chiropractor resulted in a diagnosis of "cell phone neck" or, "[l]ooking down, dropping your head forward [and changing] the natural curvature of your neck," as defined by the Cleveland Clinic's article: "Text Neck: Is Smarphone Use Causing Your Neck Pain? Indeed, institutions like the Cleveland Clinic have noted an increase in younger patients suffering from ailments previously associated with the elderly such as a strained neck or back. Essentially, lowering one's neck to view the contents of a cell phone puts greater pressure and strain on associated muscles. According to Dr. Bolash (via the Cleveland Clinic), '[n]eck muscles, in their proper position, are designed to support the weight of your head, about 10 to 12 pounds... [F]or every inch you drop your head forward, you double the load on those muscles." In this sense, aligning your ears with your shoulders while looking at your phone can save you a world of hurt.

Holding the phone at eye level: good for your posture, good for selfies.

Moving from the Cleveland Clinic to Seventeen Magazine (not a large jump as far as I'm concerned), an article entitled, "10 Tips For Taking The Perfect Selfie" suggests readers hold their cameras over their heads to, "give... selfies an artsy feel, while [providing] the opportunity to show off some of your cute outfit." While such advice seems the fodder of (young) millennials, it adds up to words of wisdom as far as posture and thereby muscular health is concerned. Holding your phone closer to eye level keeps your head and neck more naturally aligned, helping to avoid shoulders which slouch or even lower back pain. With this in mind, I've found it a bit difficult to maintain a level eye gaze. So much falls slightly at or below our eye level. But holding our phones (and heads high) can be a simple task which allows for greater benefit in the future.

Perhaps cell phones are making us devolve?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Taking Stock

At the beginning of the last century, Albert Einstein proved that time is relative. Its passing is marked in comparison to other events. We know we are moving compared to a dog sitting still. We know (theoretically) that if one were to travel at the speed of light, he or she would be traveling so fast in comparison that movement on Earth would seem to halt. But long before Einstein's Theory of Relativity, it could be assumed that people marked the passing of time by the change in seasons and thereby, available food. Indeed, while our days may be whittled down to a series of moments between stand-up meetings and conference calls, many calendars still refer to the major seasons and events of the year. And even if we don't know it, our bodies naturally go along with such changes.

Fall, for me, marks a unique point in the year. It is the time in which I return to Virginia and work, forcing me to reassess my budgetary and culinary priorities as my "bounty" in both areas change. While the climates and therefore foods remain relatively similar between Connecticut and Virginia my culinary needs change as I cook for one and therefore use one budget to buy goods. Cooking for myself means a little less meat and a few more veggies than I would otherwise prepare... and a lot more chocolate. And in the beauty department, a change in weather often means a change in my skincare routine and product usage.

When I was first reading cookbooks, I always loved the pantry section which listed items one should have on hand to make a myriad of dishes. I think it was the "list form" which drew me to this section which is why I was probably attracted to cookbooks in the first place. Over time, I've worked hard to establish a well edited pantry which accounts for both my cooking style and budget. While often difficult to maintain such "strictness" in a world of overabundant options, I find myself relying more and more on a few ingredients to get me through the months. Below, a few of my favorites that often find their way into my pantry or beauty counter during the cooler months.

Olive Oil: I'm not a huge fan of olive oil, which is funny because I love olives. But the substance is healthy for you, providing mono- and polyunsaturated fats which can, "help lower [the] risk of heart disease," according to the Mayo Clinic. I use it for sauteeing (my favorite form of cooking) and in marinades (my favorite form of seasoning). It also works well in one's "beauty pantry" or group of items used in heavy rotation in the bath or shower. Here, olive oil can be used as an oil cleanse (recently, Into the Gloss came out with an article entitled, "Got Acne? Put Oil On It") or as a hair mask, adding moisture to frayed tresses. As I use this product heavily both in the culinary and beauty realms, it always finds a place on my shelves. My favorite? Bertolli Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

Grapeseed Oil: As stated before, I'm not a huge fan of olive oil's flavor, however, it carries enough health benefits and applications that I use it on the daily. But grapeseed is an oil I've begun rotating into my routine due to its neutral taste and high smoke point. Sauteeing things as much as I do, I noticed my onions were becoming burned and/or soggy when put through the caramelization process. Using grapeseed oil seems to give off less steam and an even temperature as it cooks, making both myself and my onions happy. :)

White Vinegar: While you can find olive oil in my kitchen for cooking and in my bathroom for beauty, you can find white vinegar in similar places as well as my hallway closet for cleaning. White vinegar is a veritable tour de force of applicability. In the kitchen, I use it to pickle vegetables and make dressings while in the bathroom, I use it as a rinse to give my tresses a good detox and shine. In any other area, I add it to water along with several drops of tea tree oil (Desert Essence is my favorite) to make a gentle but effective cleaner (both my yoga mats and counters benefit from this). I also mix it with baking soda to form a paste that can be spread on the tub or bathroom tiles to remove grease or stains. As I use it so frequently, I purchase it in the largest tub possible... and quickly decant it into Kikkoman containers (more on soy sauce later).

Cider Vinegar: I may not use cider vinegar as much as I do white vinegar but its application certainly runs deep in the culinary and beauty departments. Here, I mix it with honey to make a small, detoxifying morning drink. I use it in various dishes and as an astringent to tone the skin. I also use it as an anti-dandruff rinse in my hair as a chemical-free alternative to shampoo.

White Balsamic Vinegar: Of all the items in my pantry, white, balsamic vinegar may be the most luxurious. Adding subtle flavor to any dish, it is used strictly in dressings or as a dressing itself. While vinegars are the most ubiquitous items on my pantry... the white balsamic, with its sophisticated zip ranks among my favorite. (Hint, mixing it with a freshly juiced orange and olive oil = salad dressing goals.)

Balsamic Vinegar: As I don't buy the highest quality forms of balsamic vinegar, I tend to use it more freely and in more dishes than its white counterpart. I generously add it to dressings, marinades, glazes, dips and sometimes as variation on a stir-fry sauce. To use the condiment in stir-frying, simply pour it over almost-cooked vegetables and watch it simultaneously begin to evaporate while adding a complex flavor to your dish. Some other recipes include:

Soy Sauce: With my beloved vinegars taken care of, my next, favorite condiment would be soy sauce. Leading into summer, I toyed with the idea of growing soybeans of my own and converting them into a sauce. However, the process is somewhat laborious. Yet, if one does choose to buy soy sauce like myself, +heidi swanson  of 101 Cookbooks suggests choosing a brand which is naturally (read: slowly) fermented over ones quickly processed. Although expensive, Dean and Deluca carries a great one which can be found here. And while I generally use soy sauce in the same dishes over and over, I'm surprised at its versatility when I expand it outside of my typical, culinary habits. The product works well as an addition to stir-fries and dressings and often serves as the base of my marinades for both meat and vegetables. A few reliable and exciting recipes lie below.

Salt: A no-brainer. No matter your budget or cooking style, salt is often found in every pantry across the universe or country. Adding extra flavor to homemade soups or enhancing existing ones in ready-made dishes, salt is that ingredient that lends an extra je ne sais quoi to dishes (indeed, I heard chef Thomas Keller would sprinkle sea salt on his dishes before consuming them). But not only does salt work in the culinary world, it can also be used in the bathroom in the form of Epsom salts (see Rubbing Alcohol All Over) or added to coconut oil to form a scrub for the skin or lips.

Pepper: A long time ago, I walked through a market in Grand Central Station and marveled at the herbs and spices set out on display. This summer, I was fortunate to return to the station and buy some. However, rather then invest in a blend of spices, I decided to stick with the basics, mainly, buying pepper. Just like tomatoes, it's a little known fact that peppercorns are actually a fruit. And unlike the tasteless grounds found in restaurant shakers, fresh peppercorns add a fruity, spicy note to foods. While I don't often use it alone, I consistently add it to marinades and dressings to obtain a hint of complex flavor.

Mustard Seed: When I was in college, my friend and I were fortunate to see a rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream at a local theater. During the performance, I remember having forgot that one of the character's name was Mustard Seed. Ever since then, I think I've been a bit intrigued by mustard seeds and, like soybeans, thought about growing them in my garden. However, store bought mustard seeds are fine and can usually be ground into a powder and added as a kick to dressings and marinades. You can also use them to make your own mustard through Melissa Clark's recipe in New York Times Cooking.

Honey: Like salt, honey is a no brainer. And, like salt, I use honey in both my beauty and food pantries for its taste and antimicrobial properties. As I wrote many blog posts ago, water is essentially at the bottom of my food pyramid. As I learn that what goes in our bodies seems to have a greater effect than what goes on our bodies, I try to drink a lot of water to flush out my system, energize my muscles and generally re-hydrate myself. To this extent, I add honey as a way to support my local economy and ecosystem (locally produced is easy to find and can help with seasonal allergies) as well as my health. According to WebMD, "sugar is sugar" but honey (particularly buckwheat honey) has been shown to effectively soothe a cough and may help in stemming the spread of bacteria. To date, I add honey to my water each day and apply a honey mask each week to clean my skin. Although technically unproven as an anti-inflammatory for the skin, it always makes my skin feel supple and brightens my complexion. As stated in Poppin' Bottles, my favorite type of honey-based mask is one made from the honey-turmeric combination.

Garlic: Garlic is a pretty ubiquitous ingredient in my pantry. I love alliums. While I was scared of onions as a kid (I thought they were so spicy and made my grandmother give me a bowl of chicken soup without them) I have come to love them as an adult. I throw garlic in hummus and in dressings. I mash it up and sprinkle it with salt to make a paste and I used to boil the skins to make a flavorful stock composed of all those elements I would otherwise compost. And while garlic might only be found in my culinary pantry, it certainly does good by the body. According to Eating Well, studies have shown that raw, chopped garlic can help reduce the risk of certain cancers. It is also well known that garlic is a tool in maintaining a healthy heart and has even been shown to possess antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities according to the CNN article entitled "Protect your Heart with Fresh Garlic." And while some poo-poo the smell, I happen to love the scent on my hands.

Onion: Another allium, onions, to my taste, lends a sharp or sweet note to any dish. Able to be pickled, caramelized or added as an aromatic, it essentially goes into 95% of dishes I make. I love caramelized onions and make them whenever I can and on a budget, I often use extra onions as opposed to the aromatic triumvirate of celery, onions and carrots. Not only do onions add flavor to a dish, they also possess some pretty powerful cleaning properties. According to Wise Bread (the website that has great ideas for budget-living) onions can help to clean a BBQ, clean knives (and your face) and/or cut down on harsh smells. In fact, I remember an old roommate splitting and onion in half rather than washing dishes in college. To this extent, onions are a multipurpose miracle in my kitchen.

So there you have it, my exhaustive list of pantry items that serve me well as we round the bend from the summer months into something cooler.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Topsy Turvy

Currently, I am thinking of a third incarnation for the title for my blog. The blog was originally called "Eat Your Ego" followed by its current title. However, I've lately been searching for something different. Recently, I've been toying with a variation of "Through the Looking Glass". "Through the Wine Glass" and "Through the Mason Jar" have been contenders but seem to miss encompassing the theme of healthy eating. Essentially, when we look at what food and beauty products (the good and the bad) do to our bodies we can sometimes encounter Alice's Wonderland in which, "everything [is] what it isn't and contrarily-wise what it [isn't] it [is]," to use some poetic licensing. So I'm looking for a title to encapsulate the magical and microscopic world of our bodies which we often need a looking/magnifying glass to view. But for now, since this post is actually about spending time upside-down, I'll settle on a subtitle rather than a main one.

Sooner or later, we all fall through the rabbit hole.

When I was in college, my professor had a map that seemed to be upside down, much like Alice sees when she falls through the rabbit hole. I never asked her about it but I was curious, thinking it was a misprinted map that she got for free (poor teachers, you know). However, one day, she pointed to the fact that the map was printed from the perspective of someone living in Australia and it kind of blew my mind. Such is what happens when we see things from a new perspective. Our minds often need time to adjust but when they do, we're able to see things in a completely new light. Indeed, when I was attending the same college, I read a book by a Zen practitioner (maybe Jon Kabat Zinn) who stated that seeing things differently often exercises our minds, breaking the old habits of seeing what we expect and exposing us to something our brains have to freshly comprehend. His advice did not take on Herculean tone. Essentially, he suggested one sit in a place they normally didn't sit, take a new route to work or pack something different for lunch: little things that could add up to a large change. This same philosophy was encountered in a yoga class taken yesterday which helped us view things from a completely new perspective: upside-down.

Map from an Australian perspective.

Currently, I am at a yoga retreat in Mexico, where we do some yoga and some workshops. The workshop yesterday was on back-bends which our instructor told us, "releases tension from the spine." Apparently, a lot of emotion can be stored in the spine which can come up and thus, be released when it is stretched. Additionally, when we stretch our spines through traditional back-bends (think of the bridges you did in gymnastics growing up or, if you were extra-lucky, in gym class) we view the world upside down and through a new perspective, allowing us to form new neural pathways, according to Zahra Vaezi of Arlington Bikram Yoga. To this extent, back-bends can serve the dual purpose of healing both our bodies and minds. Indeed, Zahra noted that patients with Alzheimer's are sometimes asked to walk barefoot in order to encounter new sensations which, in turn, can also help them develop new neural pathways. To receive such benefits through a back-bend, simply lay on your back (in comfortable clothing). Bring your arms up and place your palms on the floor next to your ears. Place your feet on the floor and, using your arm strength, push your body up so only your palms and feet remain planted. Hold each back-bend for several seconds and repeat if desired. This pose will help strengthen and stretch your spine while releasing tension and giving you a new perspective... much like Alice receives as she delves into her wonderland. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rubbing Alcohol All Over

Yesterday morning, as I sat tensed, getting a wax, I commented to the esthetician that the liquid she put on following the removal of said wax reminded me of my former pediatrician's office. Indeed, the smell of rubbing alcohol seems to be a relic of my youth, a time when I went to the doctor's and suffered from scrapped knees more regularly (see photo below). And until recently, the substance had all but fallen out of my purview. But as I delve deeper into the realm of (natural) beauty, I've seen rubbing alcohol emerge as a key product on the shelves of many a sophisticated socialite. Below, a few findings on unique ways the product can be used.

Adulthood goals, via Reddit.

As a "Deodorant": While deodorants often lend a pleasant scent to an otherwise unpleasant-smelling area, it seems to mask instead of eliminate bodily odors. And while antiperspirants block sweat from emerging (often through the use of harsh chemicals) it is the bacteria which love the warm underarms that actually cause the area to smell. Enter, rubbing alcohol. While it won't stop you from sweating or lend a pleasant scent (unless clinical sterility is your go-to fragrance) it can kill the bacteria which make the underarms a destination for deodorizing. While I don't rely on rubbing alcohol alone during the week (see Antiperspirants, Alternatives), I often spare myself exposure to chemicals on the weekend by reapplying the substance to certain areas as needed.

As a Nail Polish Remover: I was debating between touting rubbing alcohol as a effective cleanser or nail polish remover, however, I read on the Huffington Post that the "Queen of Clean", Ms. Linda Cobb claims rubbing alcohol can dry the skin. Ergo, it's better used as a nail polish remover.

In the Bath: Through Into the Gloss, I learned that adding about a cup of cider vinegar to the bath can help one "sweat-out" any toxins in the body. Through the same site, I learned adding rubbing alcohol can do essentially the same thing. According to, "[r]ubbing alcohol and epsom salts have been used as cleansers for eternity so [they] won't hurt you but you will start sweating... it also helps clear up acne on the body by expelling toxins from you pores." In addition to mixing epsom salts and rubbing alcohol to form a detoxifying solution (one bag and one bottle, according to actress Liv Tyler) I've also seen it used to help people cut weight (particularly in the world of athletes) by drawing water out of the body and into the salty bath. While I wouldn't recommend this "weight cutting" method in general, it's nice to know there's always an option if you need to squeeze into an LBD.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

High and Dried

Within the curious world of the beauty industry, "dry" can be a bad thing. Some skin is naturally dry and some becomes dry with age. Ergo, the beauty industry offers a myriad of products which can keep this issue at bay. Hundreds of moisturizers line the shelves ranging in price from $8.99 for Neutrogena's Oil-Free Moisturizer Pink Grapefruit to over $1,000 for 111Skin's Celestial Black Diamond Night Cream (admit it, we all want bling in our moisturizer). But, as I've found through my short bit of research, what we put in our bodies seems to gave a greater effect than what we put on our bodies. Not that I'm a fan of chemically laden beauty products. Typically, I try to use the most natural products possible (read: baking soda, olive oil, honey- I should expect to find a cake in my bathtub soon). But when I need to use an antiperspirant (see Antiperspirants, Alternatives) or the Pantene shampoo in my yoga studio, I know I'm not doing myself too much harm. But what we put in our bodies seems to have a significant effect on our health. In this regard, water can be one of the best things we consume. It hydrates us, helps to regulate our appetites and energize our muscles, according to WebMD. And in the realm of water-based drinks (read: teas, coffees and tisanes- the snob's version of herbal tea) the process of drying summer's bounty to preserve it for the cold winter months can be a good thing.

Precious rose petals.

Recently, Into the Gloss featured an article entitled, "ITG's Best Water Tips". One tidbit of advice came from singer Domino Kirke who stated that, "I have chronic dry skin. I went to a dermatologist and found out it was more about hydration, like drinking water. I was putting on the most expensive, thick, goopy stuff but it just wasn't sticking. I feel best when my skin is soft." While somewhat intuitive, the beauty industry can bamboozle us into thinking we need four-figure night creams when water may do the trick. Again, what we put in our bodies can be more effective than what we put on our bodies. So following this axiom, I try to drink a lot of water or (because I'm often a little attention-deficit when it comes to flavors) I drink a lot of tea. Adding flavor to water (in the form of tea and tisanes) can also boost its health quotient. A little dried cinnamon bark can add healing effects to muscle spasms, vomiting or even the loss of appetite. A few dried juniper berries can help to ease an upset stomach or even urinary tract infections. And adding a few dried, green tea leaves to water can lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar and raise your IQ (just kidding, but it is good for blood flow and, by proxy, your brain). And while adding "flavor" to your water can be good for your health, adding ingredients that are flavorful and homegrown can be good for your wallet. Thus, a few key ingredients I am currently harvesting and drying with the intention of adding them to my hot, winter teas.

Red Clover: Red Clovers are somewhat ubiquitous throughout Connecticut. Indeed, they grow in Hardiness Zones 4 or warmer (which is essentially most of the country). Upon my herbal education at Flower Power this summer, I learned clovers possess proteins and can even reduce pre-menstrual symptoms in women, perhaps prompting Joan Jett's classic combination: Crimson and Clover. To dry, simply cut several clovers cleanly with a sharp blade leaving about three to four inches of stem intact (in terms of cutting, just like humans prefer to have a Band-Aid ripped off instead of slowly removed, it's generally better to cut plants quickly and neatly). Once you've cut the number of clovers you wish to dry, gather the stems and tie together with gardener's twine. Place clovers in indirect sunlight for about six hours when the dog days of summer heat hit around 85-95 degrees. To use, simply place dried ingredients in a tea ball and let steep for 3-5 minutes. Clovers can also add complexity to your favorite white wine.

 Crimson... clovers.

Rose Petals: I bought a rose bush this summer which promptly died... and then spawned several roses. These roses, in my mind, are a super-breed of flora which "rose" like a phoenix from the ashes to spread its powerful DNA. But even if you don't indulge in such personal delusions like myself, rose petals are actually good for you. High in antioxidants, rose petals can also boost the amount of vitamin C in a dish or lend usage as a remedy for digestive disorders, according to Like red clovers, the petals can also be used to treat menstrual cramps and, like clovers, you can dry them in much the same way. Simply pluck each petal from its corresponding stem and place in a bowl to dry (cover your bowl with Saran Wrap if you want extra protection from having your petals blow away in the wind). Leave petals in direct or indirect sunlight for several hours until they've reduced in size and will crumble between your fingers. To use, place petals in a tea diffuser and let steep in hot water.

Dry my pretties. 

Basil: While I may not add a lot of basil to my teas, I have a lot in my garden and love to add it to my dressings. In addition to lending a kick of spice to foods, basil also carries, "antioxidant and antibacterial qualities," according to WebMD. And while fresh basil can be used to make basil oil in the summer, preserved, dried basil can be used in dressings throughout the winter or added to boost the flavor of soups. To dry, simply cut the leaves of basil so that a small amount of the stem remains. Wash, dry and tie together basil leaves in a bunch (using a rubber band may be more helpful than gardener's twine in this situation). Unlike red clovers and rose petals, basil can be dried within the confines of your home, out of direct sunlight. Simply hang basil leaves so that air is able to circulate around it. Within two weeks, your basil should be dried and ready to store.

Basil galore... to be dried and stored.

So there you have it. A series of plants which can be preserved and added to hot water in the cold winter months. Not only will they add flavor, they will impart health benefits to an already positive habit of drinking (water). And, if you need ideas as to where to store your newly dried goodies, of course I'm going to suggest glass bottles. Enjoy!

Dried rose petals and clovers in glass.