February 24, 2015

Petit Vour January Box

The Petit Vour January box was co-curated by Emily Nolan from My Kind of Life. Look at what amazing things were inside:

100% Pure french lavender hand buttercream. 100% Pure is one of my favorite companies. They use really safe ingredients (like fruit to color their makeup!), they're cruelty-free, and have some really great environmental practices. They're not 100% vegan, though most of their products are. I own this hand buttercream in another scent, and love how soft it makes my hands feel. This lavender scent is a clean, soft floral scent. I've been using it a lot especially because it is the perfect size to throw in my purse, and I've given it to J to use several times because he has really dry skin in the winter.

Modern Minerals En Pointe eye shadow. This is the second modern minerals eye shadow that I've gotten in a Petit Vour box (and that's a good thing). I use my other one (Vixen) quite often, and I was excited to see this when I lifted the lid of the box. What is even cooler is that the shade included (En Pointe) is a shade exclusive to Petit Vour. It is such a beautiful pink, and I'm sure I'll be wearing it a ton.

EVOLVh leave-in conditioner. EVOLVh products are sulfate-, paraben-, and gluten-free as well as vegan, and each product is always at least 90% organic. The month before I began my Petit Vour subscription, their shampoo and conditioner were featured in the box. I heard so many raves about it, and couldn't wait to try this brand out. I was excited to see this in the box because I was almost out of my Yarok leave-in conditioner that I had received in another box. So far, so good. This is a solid product that my hair really loves!

RawSkinCeuticals rose creme cheek color. RawSkinCeuticals creates chemical-free raw vegan skin products. I loved perusing their site to see what kinds of products they have, and they offer skin care and makeup samplers which is so helpful. When I unscrewed the lid and saw a muted lilac color within, I was slightly hesitant to use it. The trick is to use a tiny, tiny bit. It adds just a hint of color and though it's not my favorite blush, I do like it. I think it would look best on me with a very soft, natural makeup look, nothing too flashy. I think it pairs with En Pointe really well, too. 

I've just received my February box in the mail (boy, time flies), but I haven't yet opened it. With this review wrapped up, I'm off to look at February's treasures!

February 19, 2015

All-Natural Vegan Skincare Routine

I've been fortunate throughout my life to have clear skin. A breakout here and there? Sure. However, there wasn't a time in which I felt the need to use anything more than water to splash my face off or layer on the lotion. Now that I'm getting a bit older, I'm starting to think about maintaining the beautiful skin that I've been blessed with. Sometimes it's drier or duller than I'd like, and I want to stay my youthful self.

I can't write a post about skincare without mentioning my three essentials for healthy skin: water, food, and green juice.

  • I drink anywhere from 1/2-1 liter of water when I wake up every morning, and I drink more throughout the day. It helps to keep my body hydrated and my skin supple. 
  • Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-dense plant foods (including healthy fats!) deliver nutrition to your body's cells, and that includes your skin. I rarely eat refined sugar, refined flours, and fried foods, but I do notice that those are the times that my skin decides to break out. It's likely that if you pay close enough attention, you'll notice your skin is not the only body part that gets angry with these foods. 
  • And of course, juice. I can't say enough good things about the mighty green juice. If you're not doing it, give it a go. It's been so magnificent for my skin.

That's all well and good, but there are external factors that affect our skin, too, like pollution, cold and brisk winter weather, stress, lack of sleep, etc. Since I am caring so much about my body from the inside, I want to care for it on the outside, too. I've found some really fantastic natural products that continue to improve my skin the more I use them. My skin is literally glowing in appreciation.

As far as my nighttime/daytime facial routine, I have been using 4 products fairly consistently. 2 of them are samples that I received in my Petit Vour boxes and the others are what should be essentials in everyone's medicine cabinet. Below, you'll see the line-up.

I start off with the S.W. Basics cleanser. It's a non-foaming cleanser that you apply with a cotton ball and wash off. It contains only rose water, vegetable glycerine, and tea tree oil. Using this product alone is enough to make my face look lively and feel as soft as a baby's bum. I love the simplicity of the ingredients, and I will be buying a full size when I run out of this one.

I then tone with witch hazel. I initially bought witch hazel because it's so versatile, but I didn't have any one particular use in mind. I knew it would come in handy though. It's a lovely toner. I was also relieved beyond belief when I found out it soothes hives. I had an allergic reaction this Jan. to a supplement I was taking, and I was slathering it all over. It was awesome. I bought this cucumber scent because I thought it would be refreshing, but I'm not so into it. When I finish this bottle, I'm going to repurchase this brand but in the rose scent.

The final step, moisturizing, has been brilliantly performed by organic jojoba oil. I've used coconut oil for some time on my face and body, but I really like how quickly the jojoba oil sinks into my skin. Even though I went for the organic jojoba, it was relatively inexpensive, especially given that I only need to use a few small drops. While I use this mostly for my face, I've used it as an all-over moisturizer, and it's great for my cuticles and as a makeup remover.

While I use jojoba oil at night, I love to apply Pelle Beauty's Luxe oil to moisturize my face in the mornings. This is another item that I received in a Petit Vour box. It's their anti-aging and skin-soothing formula. The fragrance is beyond amazing. That alone can make me feel ready for the day. What it does to the skin is something special. When I first started using it, I couldn't stop grazing my hand over my face because it felt so soft. When I run out of this one, I'd like to try their Stellar Multi-Tasking Facial Oil because that one is more affordable for me, and I love to have multi-use products.

For my lips, I always have a tube of Hurraw lip balm on me. The flavor I choose depends on how I'm feeling that day, but lately I've been reaching for the green tea, grapefruit, or vata (almond cardamom rose) during the day. At night, my one-and-only is the sun balm (tangerine chamomile), and I do use it during the day, too, because it has SPF. The chamomile is really soothing and the citrus scent is just enough help me fall asleep happy.

When I got Rosemira Organics sweet coconut body butter in a Petit Vour box, I said that it would be a scent that would help my mood through the dark, cold Pittsburgh winters. So naturally I included it on my Christmas list, and Santa delivered! My skin loooooves this stuff. I use it mostly for my hands and elbows and for my legs after I shave, but I've also used it on-the-go as a lip balm (in case my Hurraw is missing which happens sometimes!) and to moisturize my eyebrows and corners of my mouth when the bitter winds hit. I like having the small sample size from my Petit Vour box because I can throw that one in my purse and keep the other one at my bedside.

Do you have any new or tried-and-true vegan beauty skin care favorites?

February 17, 2015

Review: Well Scent Essential Oil Blends

When I visit Rosemary, a family friend and my favorite massage therapist, I like to explore her giant carrying case of essential oils. Until recently, my knowledge of them has been limited, but my curiosity has always been high. Through this treasure trove of sacred oils, I discovered my love of red mandarin oil, the complex sensuality of ylang ylang, and the deep soulfulness of frankincense. This exploration awakened my latent interest, sparking into a new passion for me.

I think I share similarities with others who are interested in essential oils but haven't taken steps forward to learn more: 1) I felt overwhelmed by all the choices and didn't know where to start. 2) I had a lot of other interests I was already invested in at any given time. 3) They are a serious monetary investment if you want the good stuff. And believe me, you want the good stuff! 

At some point, a company named Well Scent came onto my radar. I'd browse their selection, making "want" lists to keep in my pocket for a rainy day (the rainy day being: I need something more for my health right now and I'm ready to make this investment).

That moment came this past November, when my health went topsy-turvy crazy, worse than it had in ages, and I wanted to find some extra emotional support to keep me motivated in recovery. Their emotional blends all seemed appealing to me, but since I was such a newbie to essential oils, I didn't want to get the wrong things.

I emailed them to ask about sample sizes, and they created an emotional blend sample set at my request. (They only had the sample gift sets up for the holiday season, but if you're interested in that I'd suggest requesting it from them. If they get enough inquiries, they may create some permanent sample sets which would be so cool!)

Before I get to my review of the sample set, let's take a look at the company itself. I had the pleasure of corresponding with both Stacy Shuman (the founder) as well as Candice (communications specialist). They were both so warm, caring, and open when I explained my reasons for wanting the support of their essential oils. Reading more about them on the website, I found out that they have both had their lives change dramatically from a Late Stage Lyme Disease diagnosis. Stacy used essential oils to aid in her healing. She was first trying to help her own body to heal, and the resulting positive impact led to starting this business so that she could share her blends with others. So cool!

Anyone who has faced chronic illness can tell you there are a plethora of scam artists, magic cures, and perfect supplements out there that will "fix you overnight!". What makes Well Scent so great is that they are not trying to sell crap as a miracle, far from it. They are selling top-notch high-quality oils that are carefully balanced and formulated into the blends they offer. Plus, I could feel that they have that sense of connection/sisterhood/kinship with others who have health issues, that "we are all in this together!" mentality.

On each product page is a description of the blend, benefits of it, and how/where to use it. Their blog is also helpful for getting examples of how to use your favorite blend. The Emotional Blend gift set that I purchased included:

Smile (mood support)

It's named perfectly because I can't help but smile when I get a whiff of it. Jasmine has always been one of my favorite scents, so it's not surprising that I love this one. Geranium, sandalwood, bergamot, and a few other oils round out this perky blend. This one is my favorite oil to wear as a perfume. Also, I took a cue from their suggested applications and dab some on my scarf when I go out. It helps me to be happy and loving in my interactions even if I happen to feel like a big ol' grump that day.

Pause for Peace (relaxation support)

Rose, vanilla, cardamom, and sandalwood are a few of the oils that make up Pause for Peace. This, this, is my blend when I'm feeling frazzled and anxious or if I need a gentle nudge to sleep. It is so extremely soothing. It's a warm embrace in a bottle. I feel like it wraps me up in a luxurious cocoon and lulls me into a calm state of being. Peaceful mind, peaceful body.

Over the Moon (endocrine support)

On first impression, this is the blend that I was least attracted to. However, now it's the one I am reaching for the most. I see it as somewhere between Smile and Pause for Peace, and if you look at the ingredients (like rose, bergamot,...), you'll see that it has a little bit of both of them. When I want to feel both uplifted and relaxed, supported and empowered, spirited and grounded, I anoint myself with Over the Moon.

Energize (adrenal + energy support)

Stacy was wonderful to send me an adrenal support blend because I'd told her about my health challenges and she felt strongly that it would help. She was right! The instructions say to use 3-4 times a week, so I put it on every other day. What is unique about this oil is that I can apply it directly to my lower back, and it bypasses the gut and goes directly where it needs to go. I've noticed an obvious boost in my energy, especially on the days that I use it. I am so thankful that I have this healing tool in my arsenal. It's proved indispensable for me and where I am right now. Thank you, Stacy and Well Scent!

I totally have my eye on a couple of their products I'd like to try next including: Glow radiant serum, dental support products, and anti-microbial and immune-supportive blends like Renew and Mold Plus.

I'd wholly recommend you try out Well Scent products, not only for the stellar oils and knowledge of holistic health, but also because you can feel good about supporting a company that puts such integrity and care into the work that they do.

February 02, 2015

Meatless Mondays: What To Do When You Crave Meat

We live in a building that carries the smells of food around it. So many times in the spring and summer, I'll be cooking, baking, or dehydrating something, and my neighbors will say, "What smells so good?!". I'll reply, "Oh, I'm making J a birthday cake" or "I'm making raw granola". I say "in the spring and summer" because that's when I see all of my neighbors. In the winter, none of us particularly like hanging out in the shared backyard in 10 degree weather. We come and go, but we don't linger. So, I'm assuming that all winter long, too, they can smell delicious aromas of our autumn and winter bounty roasting in the oven or simmering on the stove.

J may be the most food-nostalgic person I know; there are so many emotional associations between him and food. Sometimes it grosses me out, like when he sees a Wendy's commercial and wants their food or when he wants a calzone stuffed with enough dairy cheese to feed a village. His tastes have evolved due to an increasing health-conciousness and going vegan, but his emotion + food associations remain strong.

What I really admire about him is that he takes a creative approach to quelling these cravings. Maybe it's all that time he spent working in restaurant kitchens, or maybe it's that he's always been good at thinking outside the box, but he understands that just because he's having a specific craving doesn't mean he needs that specific thing to satisfy it.

There was one time that we made a special trip to Whole Foods to get ingredients for vegan calzones when his calzone craving got out of control, and I've written in the past about how an asian dish evoked his nostalgia for ham barbecue. That last one really demonstrates how far out of the box you can be, and it still works!

Yesterday, J was in the basement doing laundry, and he smelled something that made him salivate. Someone was cooking roast beef, and it set off his cravings.

I feel like sometimes vegans don't like acknowledging when meat makes them salivate. Our logical brains and compassionate hearts are telling us that a roasted carcass of a beautiful, feeling, loving animal is revolting. So, why the craving?

For J, it's almost always emotions. I think that no matter how disgusted by the meat craving you are, it's so important to address it. Ignoring it could lead a person to cave in to the craving. J allows himself to feel it, and if it's strong enough, he thinks of a creative way to satisfy it.

His solution yesterday was to think of all the other smells that go along with the roast beef. He thought of roasted vegetables and potatoes in broth. You know, meat and potatoes. The classic.

We didn't have any vegetable broth on hand, so I suggested that he use all of the vegetables that are used for broth and it will make it just as fragrant and flavorful. You would've never, ever guessed that there was no broth in this because it was so bursting with flavor. He used potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery and seasoned it with salt, pepper, a bit of olive oil, garlic powder, and fresh thyme. I could eat bowls of just this for days. I live for these simple dishes.

J did have vegan sausages in the fridge (which would also help with meat cravings), but instead we served it with quinoa, white beans, and turmeric thyme tahini sauce.

So, my advice to you today is to take thoughts of cravings that you are having and look at them from a positive perspective instead of dwelling on the idea that you are suffering in some way. It makes a world of difference, for you and for the animals.