High Vibe Hot Chocolate

I love having smoothies in the morning but sometimes I need something with a little more warmth.  Enter my High Vibe Hot Chocolate.

I do variations on this hot chocolate a few times a week.  I might go use less coconut butter if I want to keep it light.  Sometimes I'll add collagen protein if I'm hungry or if I know I'm not going to eat again for a while.  The creamy, sweet, chocolatey goodness is a perfect vehicle for all those superfoods you have hanging out in your kitchen (or maybe the ones you've been stalking online).  Feel free to tweak according to taste and need.  

The version I'm posting here is chock full of goodness that your body will be grateful for.  I recommend drinking it in the morning instead of night because of the caffeine content from the cacao powder and the mild stimulating effects of maca.  This recipe also includes one of my new favorite potion ingredients: tocos.

Tocos (short for tocotrienols) are a superfood derived from rice bran.  It comes as an off-white, fluffy powder that tastes sweet and mildly rice-like.  I love eating it straight off the spoon but it really shines as an addition to warm elixirs.  It provides a healthy dose of Vitamin E and it's wonderful for skin health.  I'm still learning new, fun ways to use it so if you have any suggestions I'd love for you to leave a comment below!

Enjoy your hot chocolate!

High Vibe Hot Chocolate
serves 1

Ingredients
- 1 cup warm (not hot) water
- 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 Tbsp coconut butter
- 1 Tbsp Tocos
- 1 tsp maca powder (I love this brand)
- 1 tsp Vitamineral Green
- 1 date

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Blend on high until creamy and drink immediately.  

Reading Roundup // May 2016

Well, I just barely met my 4 book per month goal for May.  I've been on a magazine-reading kick  lately after discovering that I can read most of my favorite mags for free(!) on my iPad through the library.  Luckily, I finished 2 quick reads at the end of the month and now I have an exciting new shipment from Better World Books to motivate my reading for this month.  From my most- to least- favorite, here is what I read in May:

Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
It's been awhile since I read anything by James Baldwin.  In high school, I read Notes of a Native Son (essays) and thought it was amazing.  While the writing here seemed a bit heavy-handed at times, I was awe-struck and deeply moved by this book.  The themes are also heavy, touching on religion, race, sexuality, and difficult family relations.  I will definitely be going back for more from this incredible American writer.
- Rating: 4/5 stars

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo
I don't read a whole lot of YA and lately I've been even more reluctant to pick up a YA book because many of them just seem so similar.  So when I started reading this fantasy world book about an outcast girl who discovers she has great powers, I admit I almost put it down.  Luckily for me, I started reading this book on an airplane and so I didn't have a lot of other options immediately available.  Once I got over the "ugh, not another one of these!" feeling, I got really sucked in.  No, this book isn't groundbreaking.  But it is one of the most fun-to-read examples of fantasy YA that I have ever read.  I like it much better than Sabriel, which I found so hard to read that it almost put me off this type of book altogether.
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Japanese Skincare Revolution: How to Have the Most Beautiful Skin of Your Life -- At Any Age by Chizu Saeki
Lately, I've been obsessed with natural anti-aging and so I picked this book up for purely superficial reasons.  I had tried Chizu Saeki's "lotion mask" technique and thought it would be worth picking up a few more tips from her book.  I liked a lot of what she had to say about how we really don't need the most expensive products if we use our regular products to their full advantage.  I was also pretty interested in her instructions for self lymph massage and even-ing out the musculature of your face.  That being said, this book was mostly pictures and a lot was pretty repetitive.  It was a quick read but I could have gotten most of the information I wanted from a blog post or two.
ating: 3/5 stars

The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas
When I started listening to this on audiobook several months ago, I had no idea of what I was in for.  The Penguin Classics paperback version clocks in at 1276 pages(!).  I found the characters to be shallow and boring, the dialogue horrendous, and the plot enjoyably but then annoyingly unbelievable.  It was a relief when it finally ended.  Wow, this may be one of the most negative and short book blurbs I've written yet.  :)
Rating: 1/5 stars

That's it for my month in reading.  Tell me, what have you been enjoying lately.  Any summer must-reads to share?

 

June 2016 Beauty Heroes Box: Modern Minerals Makeup

It's the start of a new month and I've received another wonderful box from one of my favorite companies - Beauty Heroes!

I think I look forward to these beautiful little packages more than just about anything else I get in the mail.  If you've never heard Beauty Heroes, it's a subscription service that specializes in clean, green beauty and skincare.  Usually, the monthly box contains one full-sized product and one sample-sized "sidekick" but this month they've switched it up a bit with 4 full-sized makeup products from Modern Minerals.  (The subscription is $40/month.)

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed at first when I opened June's box.  I am a skincare gal all they way and I don't usually feel like I need a lot of makeup to make me happy.  I will usually lust after a serum, lotion, or oil much more than a tube of lipstick or blush.  I pulled out the 2 lip glosses, the eyeshadow and the highlighter from my much-anticipated box and wondered just how often I was going to actually use these.  

But that was only how I felt before I tried everything on.  

Let's start with the lip gloss.  My absolute favorite thing in this box is the Emotive Lotus Wei Infused Lip Gloss in Padparadscha.  It is a lovely coral pink color that is perfect for spring with a pigment that is strong enough to be noticeable but with an overall sheer effect.  There is a bit of shimmer but it doesn't look sparkly and the texture is nice and smooth but not sticky.  I love the way it feels on my lips and the subtle rose scent is to die for.  I have a feeling that I am going to be repurchasing this one.

I wasn't as much of a fan of the Invigorating Lip Gloss in Amethyst.  The color is ok - very neutral but still sheer so it doesn't either enhance my lip color or make me look washed out.  It's got a sweet flavor that I didn't love and it causes a tingling sensation when applied.  I actually think that a lot of people would really like this sweet and "tingly" quality but, personally, it's not for me.  Even so, it's filled with lovely oils and flower extracts and so I will probably end up using it, if not repurchasing.

The Modern Moonstone Cream Highlighter is lovely.  It's silky and smooth with a subtle sheen that does a great job of accentuating my cheekbones.  It's made with coconut and jojoba oil, so it feels like I'm protecting my skin while enhancing the way it looks.  I think I can finally toss out that MAC Strobe Cream that's been hanging out in my makeup cabinet!  I do wish that the packaging on this were more ergonomic for swiping my fingers through.  I'm thinking that a shape resembling Kjaer Weis's packages would be nicer to use.

Finally, the Flower Infused Eye Shadow in Rose Quartz will make a nice addition to my makeup collection.  I don't wear much eye shadow, but when I do I like ones that are in a light shade like this one.  This comes in a loose powder and so I would recommend using a small brush to apply.  I am not the most makeup-adept person and so it took me a bit of practice to put it on my upper lids without having it end up below my eyes, too.  One thing I really like about this is it's staying power.  I put it on this morning and it was still looking great hours later!

That's it for another month of Beauty Heroes!  If you're on the fence about subscribing, I really recommend them as an affordable way to scratch your fancy green beauty itch!

Product Review: One Love Organics Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum

I have to admit, I spend lots of time, attention, and money on caring for the skin on my face.  But the skin on the rest of me?  It tends to get neglected.  I might put some lotion on my arms and legs once a week or so, but otherwise most of my skin is not feeling a lot of love.  Chalk it up to the fact that I'm almost always cold, thus, always covered in several layers of clothes.  Or maybe it's my avoidance-based method of coping with the fact that the years are adding yet more spider veins to my already blemish- and bruise-prone legs.

But the truth is, our bodies can feel the energy that we put into them.  If we spend a lot of time thinking negatively about our skin and our shape, we are doing nothing but harming ourselves.  But if we care for our bodies and give them the loving attention they deserve, our bodies will love us back. I know this is getting a little woo woo for a simple product review, but I really feel that all the serums, creams, and treatments in the world can't do what simple love and attention can do for our beauty and self-worth.  

That being said, I'd like to introduce you to something that has helped me give a little more care and attention to parts of me that previously were getting short shrift.

To put it simply, I am in love.

One Love Organics is one of my favorite companies.  They are committed to  effective, non-toxic, and cruelty free products so I can always buy their products with confidence.  So when I saw their Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum for sale on Ecodiva (one of my new favorite online beauty retailers) I decided I needed to give it a try

At first, I was a little skeptical.  Because One love is a company that I implicitly trust, I didn't look very closely at the ingredients.  As a serum, I expected the formula to be water-based and extremely light.  When I first spritzed it, though, I realized that it's closer to being a body oil.  The ingredients are mostly a mixture of oils, which I definitely could have seen for myself if I had bothered to look more closely when ordering it: 

Capric/caprylic Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (sunflower) Seed Oil*, Camellia Sinensis (green Tea) Seed Oil*, Cucurbita Pepo (pumpkin) Seed Oil*, Fragrance/parfum*, Laminaria Ochroleuca (kelp) Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides (sea Buckthorn) Oil*, Salvia Hispanica (chia) Seed Extract* (and) Rosmarinus Ocinalis (rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Calendula Ocinalis Flower Extract*, Aspalathus Linearis (rooibos Tea) Extract*, Limnanthes Alba (meadowfoam) Seed Oil
— via EcoDiva

Notice that fragrance/parfum is listed on the ingredients list.  I usually don't buy products with fragrance but I make an exception for One Love.  Why?  Via their website:

We only use ECOCERT certified blends of 100% natural origin. One Love Organics uses a proprietary blend of ingredients found in nature including therapeutic essential oils, fruit and plant extracts and oils to compose our wonderful and healthy fragrances. Our natural fragrances are free of phthalates, parabens, sulfates, chemical sunscreens, petrochemicals, formaldehyde donors, peg’s, dea/tea and 1,4 dioxanes. ECOCERT expressly prohibits synthetic perfumes and our products proudly bear the ECOCERT seal.
— http://oneloveorganics.com/product-faq/

Let's talk about some of the other ingredients, which are amazing.  

  • Pumpkin seed oil contains salicylic acid which acts and a natural and gentle exfoliant, which boosts skin's youthful appearance.
  • Sea buckthorn oil provides Omega-7, a hard-to-get fatty acid.
  • Chia seed extract is a powerful source of antioxidants to protect against aging environmental stressors.  Meadowfoam seed oil is another antioxidant powerhouse on the ingredients list.
  • Calendula is one of my absolute favorite plants.  It's very good at reducing inflammation; I've had an incredible experience healing a gnarly wound by applying it topically.  Since then, I've been a believer!

So yes, this is a body oil but it is honestly the lightest, most quickly-absorbing oil I have ever used.  I can apply it on a busy morning after a shower and not have to worry about it transferring onto my clothes.  The scent is absolutely heavenly - decidedly girly and floral but not overpowering.  For me, it has turned body care from an afterthought into a ritual.  I relish the smell and feel of the serum as I take minute or two to work it into my arms and legs.  Yes, the spider veins and bruises are still there. But when I take the time to care for myself in this way, I am so much more appreciative of my body and all that is does for me.  This is one small way that I am able pay it back.  

One small gripe.  I don't like the intended spritz method of application implied by the spray bottle.  Too messy, and I am not keen on cleaning up rogue oily spots on my bathroom walls and floors.  Instead, I'll spray a few pumps into my hands and work it into my skin from there.  Also, I'd love to see One Love Organics move toward glass instead of plastic packaging, given all the concerns about plastic elements leaching into food and skincare products.

With those little critiques out of the way, I can say that I wholeheartedly recommend One Love Organics' Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum.  At $39 for 4oz, I can't call it a steal.  But for me, it has been worth every penny.  It leaves my skin super-soft, smelling good, and well cared for.

Tell me, have you tried this body serum?  Do you have any favorite One Love products?  What about favorite body care products?

Protein Power // Tuna and Egg Salad (with Hidden Probiotics!)

Hi everyone!  How were your weekends??  I've been enjoying a few days off of work even though I have to admit that the weather here in Portland has been pretty disappointing.  Of course it was sunny and gorgeous each day that I worked last week.  Grrr.

I tried to make the most of it by going outside on at least one of my breaks. 

Today is supposed to be lovely, though, and I plan to make the most of it.  A picnic could definitely be in my near future.  And no picnic is complete without simple, satisfying, and pack-able food.  I have some leftovers of today's recipe in the fridge and I think it will be perfect on some good slices of bread or perhaps just loaded on top of some nice crispy pita chips.  It's also great by itself, making it a good option for anyone looking for a satisfying low-carb meal.

My favorite thing about this Tuna and Egg Salad is that each serving actually contains a healthy dose of probiotics, thanks to the pickle relish and/or sauerkraut.  I will warn you, though, that not all condiments are created equal and you will want to make sure that you are using a brand that is not pasteurized after packaging or created by just curing in vinegar.  My favorite relish is definitely Bubbies and right now I'm using Pickles Planet Dill E Gent (I think maybe it's just an Oregon brand) for the sauerkraut.  Both of these jars are just loaded with good-for-you probiotics that are much tastier than popping a pill.  

I hope everyone is having a good week.  I'll be back soon to post a green beauty product review.  Ciao bellas!

Tuna and Egg Salad (with Hidden Probiotics)
makes 4 generous servings
(To reduce the number of ingredients, feel free to just do 1/2 cup of pickle relish or sauerkraut instead of 1/4 cup of each.)

Ingredients
- 2 cans tuna (consider this low-mercury option)
- 3 hardboiled, pastured eggs, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup goat yogurt
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped fine
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1/4 cup pickle relish
- 1/4 cup raw sauerkraut
- 1 Tbsp mustard
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- sea salt, to taste

Mix it all together.  That's it!  Enjoy on pita chips or just out of the bowl.

 

What I Read in April

April was a wonderful book month for me.  I got through a pretty diverse little pile of books (and audiobooks) and I truly enjoyed each and every single one of them.  Lately, I've been a little more difficult to please when it comes to what I'm reading and so it was refreshing to feel like all of the books on shelf, in my e-reader, and on my phone were worth my while.  

In order of most- to least- favorite, here's what kept be busy in the last month.

"David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens
Honestly, I only started in on this book because I think it's good for me to read a classic once in a while.  What I didn't realize what how great an observer of human character Charles Dickens was and just how funny this book would be.  I listened to an audiobook version narrated by Ralph Cosham and it was fantastic.  Yes, it is a little long and it took me over a month to finish it (also, I had to return it to the library a couple of times) but I always looked forward to coming back to it and all of it's unique characters (and a few caricatures).  If you're looking to brush up on your classic novels, I'd really recommend this one.

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert
I felt like she changed my life once with "Eat, Pray, Love" (don't judge, I was going through a hard time) and now she's done it again.  "Big Magic" is a call to action for everyone to find that artist inside and let her out to play.  I put off reading this because, after hearing what it was about, I felt like it really wouldn't be for me.  Sure, I dabble in some (terrible) painting and about once a year I'll decide that I should write more, but I don't really think of myself as an incredibly creative person.  It's just kind of intimidating to describe oneself that way when there are so many people doing what you wish you could do, only they're doing it about 100x better.  But, for me, the real message of "Big Magic" is not to take yourself too seriously.  So what if your paintings never get good enough to sell in a gallery or if your blog only gets a few hits a week?  That's not the point.  The point is to commune with the magic that is inside you and all around you in order to lead a full and beautiful life.  This is something that anyone can do no matter their age, talents, or history.  Read this if you're feeling a little stuck and need a warm reminder that there is more to life than work, laundry, and internet-shopping (er, or was that just me?).

"True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart" by Thich Nhat Hanh
In any other month, this book would have probably made it to the top of my "favorites" list.  This month, it was up against a lot of competition but I still recommend it highly.  I first learned about Thich Nhat Hanh in college for a class I was taking about Buddhism.  His is one on the only books that has survived multiple moves and purges and still sits on my shelf today.  I don't know what took me so long to pick up something else he's written but I am glad I finally did.  It's a quick read (only 120 pages) but I feel that it's a book that I can return to time and again for advice about how to be more present in all of my relationships.  Thich Nhat Hanh's writing is deceptively simple - he makes the concepts seem so obvious but the challenge comes in actually applying them to daily life.  

"Someone" by Alice McDermott
This is just a beautifully told novel telling the story of a woman's life in fragments that are somehow woven together perfectly. I feel like it's a bit of a hard sell since the plot sounds so ordinary (girl grows up, gets her heart broken, gets a job, gets married, has kid, grows old), but don't let that stop you from reading this.  As it turns out, ordinary lives can be filled with immense joy and sorrow and Alice McDermott masterfully captures all this quiet beauty in less than 300 pages.

"Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" by Tom Franklin
Sometimes, we all just need a good crime novel.  Or maybe that's just the Nancy Drew-loving child who still lives inside of me demanding to be fed.  I really enjoyed this book, especially the fact that part of it was written from the point of view of an isolated and misunderstood Boo Radley type of character.  There are surprises up until the very end, which helps keep those pages turning, but I also felt like there were some plot holes that lessened my overall enjoyment of the book.  I listened to it as an audiobook and it kept me good company for house chores but I probably wouldn't tell anyone that they need to go out and read it.

So there they are, the books that made my month.  I feel like this was a pretty diverse selection, each book with its own charms.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What was your favorite book from the last month?