DIY Conditioning Detangler

Sadly, most household and personal care products are laden with chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters. Um, no thanks. If this topic is of interest to you whatsoever, I encourage you to check out EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. When I plugged my commonly used household and personal care products into these resources, I was appalled by what I found. That, my friends, is when I embarked on my journey of knowing better and doing better.

As part of that process, I’ve slowly phased out toxic products and have instead embraced products made with plant-based ingredients. Hair care products will be the last category of products to go, and I’m starting with detangler. Yep, I’m a 29 year-old chick who still uses the stuff. I’ve got lots of extremely fine hair, making for an easily tangled mess. My ends also tend to get extremely dry and frizzy, making a high-quality, conditioning detangler a must in my beauty routine.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I ended up creating my own. There’s something incredibly empowering about knowing exactly which ingredients go into something that I use almost daily. Of course, I included a variety of essential oils in my DIY concoction. After engaging in some research, I decided on the following: Sandalwood to lock in moisture, Ylang Ylang to combat static and frizz, and Clary Sage to add shine. Aside from serving as effective ingredients for a conditioning detangler, these essential oils smell fan-freaking-tastic together. Possibly the best part about this project is that I was able to throw it together in less than five minutes.

What you’ll need:

  • 8 oz spray bottle
  • 3/4 cup filtered water
  • 2 tbsp. fractionated coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. alcohol-free witch hazel
  • 15 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
  • 10 drops Sandalwood essential oil
  • 10 drops Clary Sage essential oil

What you’ll do:

  • Add all ingredients to the spray bottle and shake well to combine
  • Spirtz over ends of hair just after a shower and comb through

Winter R&R Retreat at Kripalu

My grad school spring break was in the beginning of March, and I was determined to embark on a new adventure during my time off. Because I felt in need of a getaway, yet wanted to keep the cost down, my mom and I sought out drivable escapes. She brought up the idea of Kripalu, and I was immediately sold. My mom experienced Kripalu about 10 years ago and has always raved about her time there. However, because I’ve more recently gotten into yoga and the mind-body-soul wellness that comes along with it, this was my first time. And, certainly not my last.

If I could use only one word to describe my short, but sweet time at Kripalu, it would be “magical.” However, for the sake of this blog post, I’m happy to dive much deeper. For starters, the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is located in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. The main building is surrounded by over 100 acres of land and is situated on a hilltop that overlooks Lake Mahkeenac.

Leaving from Philadelphia, it took us about four hours to get there. Being that Kripalu is located in Massachusetts, I was expecting a much longer journey. However, it turns out that it is located just above the New York border. The latter portion of our drive was exquisite, as this region was still experiencing the Nor’easter that had hit Philadelphia earlier that week. It was both scenic and serene, as the backcountry roads that led us to Kripalu were surrounded by bountiful, fluffy snow. In fact, the snow continued through Saturday, making us feel like we were inside one of the most magnificent snow globes to ever exist. ;)

Before we arrived, we agreed to leave our phones in the car. At that point, I’d recognized that the last time I was without a phone for an extended period of time was during a life-changing trip to Costa Rica in 2012 – almost five years prior! Yikes. Well, can I tell you how liberating it was to ditch my phone for a weekend?! Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, or loading up my Amazon shopping cart with “necessities,” I engaged in soul-nourishing activities. I definitely plan on incorporating technology detoxes into my life more often.

Once we checked in, we began our weekend in the best way possible! We headed to Kripalu’s Healing Arts Center to indulge in the following services: Deep Pressure Meditative Massage, Dr. Hauschka Classic Facial, and Energy Balancing. Because Kripalu incorporates Ayurvedic principles into everything that it does, the services were arguably the best and most unique spa services that I have ever received. Each treatment was better than the next, and we left feeling like we were floating in the clouds.

Although I was unsure about what to expect from the Energy Balancing portion of our afternoon, I’m so happy I gave it a try. The energy therapist that I worked with had an incredible vitality to her, and it was truly contagious! The session involved both chakra work and affirmations, which are right up my alley. I engaged in a pretty intense journaling session after my experience, as I was blown away by the blocks that were uncovered and the auras that were visualized in just one session. Because I understand that these topics are a little too “woo-woo” for most, I won’t go into too much detail here. However, if you are interested in hearing more about my experience, I’m happy to share it with you!

After our time at the Healing Arts Center, we dove headfirst into the weekend. However, before I explain our weekend in detail, I’d like to shed light on the three different ways that Kripalu can be experienced: 1) participate in a program, 2) engage in an R&R retreat, or 3) attend a teacher training. Although Kripalu is known to host presenters that are world-renowned in the wellness world, the programs taking place during the weekend that we visited simply didn’t speak to us. And, because programs and healing arts services are add-ons, we opted for the latter. Further, while I’d love to participate in one of Kripalu’s teacher trainings in the future, my journey hasn’t led me there just yet.

With all of that being said, I’m sure it comes to no surprise that we decided to engage in an R&R retreat. Accommodations, meals, use of amenities, and participation in a variety of workshops, yoga classes, and outdoor activities are included. The beauty of the R&R experience is that you are encouraged to participate in as little or as much as you’d like; it is all about customizing it to be an experience that is uniquely yours. Want a sneak peak into what my weekend looked like? See below for a brief synopsis.

Friday, March 9th, 2018

  • Deep Pressure Meditative Massage with Paul
  • Dr. Hauschka Classic Facial with Joanna
  • Energy Balancing with Jane
  • Dinner
  • Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Reis

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

  • Breakfast
  • Clearing the Clutter with Izzy Lenihan
  • Origami and Mindfulness with Mary Hannah Parkman
  • Vinyasa Yoga with Sherrie Howard
  • Lunch
  • Yoga and Art with Ali Cramer
  • Dinner

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

  • Breakfast
  • The Yoga of Dylan with Lara Tupper
  • Vinyasa Yoga with Michael Petersen
  • Lunch

Say no unless it’s a resounding HELL YES! That was my motto for the weekend. As such, I skipped workshops, yoga classes, and outdoor activities that didn’t excite me. During those time periods, I journaled, read, took photos, walked around the property, cat-napped, and moseyed around The Kripalu Shop. Although I’m so grateful for everything that I experienced during my weekend at Kripalu, there are three experiences that I cannot recommend enough: 1) Journaling, 2) Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Reis, and 3) Vinyasa Yoga with Michael Peterson.

  • Journaling // I use the notepad app on my phone almost daily. Whether it’s to create a to-do list or record a random musing, I’m constantly jotting things down. That’s why, knowing I’d be without my phone, I brought a journal along with me. Having it allowed me to track my journey in a meaningful way and prompted me to engage in stream of consciousness writing for the first time in a long time. Doing the latter was very unexpected, yet extremely cathartic.
  • Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Reis // My first experience with yoga nidra was a fantastic one. Essentially, yoga nidra is a systematic approach to sleep meditation. The idea is to travel through the panacha maya kosha (five layers of self) while lying in savasana (corpse pose). No joke, I was knocked the eff out in under two minutes. After coming out of the meditation, I zombie-walked my way up to our room and fell into nine blissful hours of sleep.
  • Vinyasa Yoga with Michael Peterson // I was blown away by every instructor at Kripalu, but this dude takes the cake. While most of the weekend was profound in nature, Michael’s class was lighthearted and fun. As such, it was a welcome break from the deep reflection that I’d engaged in for most of the weekend. He’s both talented and hilarious, offering a one-of-a-kind, entertaining, and vigorous flow.

As a side note, I’d like to mention that, while snapping photos was an enjoyable part of my experience, every photo taken was of the scenery surrounding the property. And, because the walkways were limited due to the snow, I have few photos to share with you guys. Taking photos inside the main building didn’t feel right, as everyone at the retreat does a tremendous job of respecting each others’ desire to just… be. Fun fact: Luann and Sonja from the Real Housewives of New York were at the retreat with us, and even they were left alone so that they could unwind.

Of course, being the food-obsessed gal that I am, I would be doing everyone who reads this post a disservice by not mentioning The Kripalu Kitchen‘s unbelievable food! With an emphasis on local, seasonal, and primarily plant-based ingredients, it was nourishing, yet so flavorful. I particularly loved that breakfast was eaten in silence, as it allowed for mindful eating and time to reflect before we took on each day. Notably, it was here that I first began to wrap my head around Ayurvedic principles regarding how one should eat according to his or her dosha. In fact, I was so taken by this concept that I have since taken a crash course on Ayurveda at a local yoga studio.

Want to give their incredible house dressing a whirl? The recipe can be found here.

Admittedly, I’m already itching for my next Kripalu visit. Because we experienced it in all of its winter glory, I’d absolutely love to see what it’s like during the summer months. Hiking its beautiful trails, especially the Meditation Garden, and participating in outdoor yoga are what I look forward to the most! Oh, and remember those world-renowned presenters that I mentioned? There are some pretty badass babes presenting at Kripalu this summer! Ruby Warrington (author of Material Girl, Mystical World) and Gabrielle Bernstein (author of The Universe Has Your Back) are two of them. Decisions, decisions…

Lastly, if you’re thinking of heading to Kripalu in the near future, here’s a packing guide comprised of items that I consider must-haves:

  • Yoga Mat // Kripalu provides yoga mats if you prefer to travel light, but I’m partial to using my own.
  • Reusable Water Bottle // Love your Mother! Water-filling stations can be found throughout the main building.
  • Comfortable Sandals // Although it was the dead of winter, I was wearing my sandals the entire time, minus our outdoor walk.
  • Slippers // Despite the above comment, I wish I’d had my slippers when we were relaxing in our room.
  • Sneakers // Although these will be neglected most of the time, they’re necessary for an outdoor walk or hike.
  • Tote Bag // Between carrying around my water bottle, yoga towel, room key, and journal, I wish that I’d had something larger than my purse with me.
  • Watch // It’s relatively difficult to keep track of time when you leave your cell phone in the car. I learned the hard way. ;)
  • Sound Machine // Although the environment at Kripalu is overwhelmingly serene, the walls are thin and I much prefer my sound machine to the ear plugs provided at the front desk.
  • Essential Oils + Diffuser // We diffused grounding oils throughout the weekend, and it most definitely enhanced our experience.
  • Journal + Pen // I think you’ve caught my drift with journaling by now, but I’ll leave you with one last reminder. ;)
  • Reading Material // This weekend is all about going where the wind takes you. Bring a variety of books that you’ve been meaning to read so that you have something for every mood.
  • Camera // It’s crazy how reliant we are on our phones, huh?! Plus, if you own a fancy camera that tends to collect dust (ahem – me), this is the perfect opportunity to give it some love.
  • Clothing // Athletic yoga wear by day. Casual yoga wear (read: a sweater and a pair of joggers) by night. Swimwear if you plan on utilizing the hot tub or sauna.

Have you ever visited Kripalu or participated in a similar retreat? If so, please leave a comment and share about your experience!

Seasonal Allergy Relief with Bee Pollen

This marks the third year that I have prepared for allergy season by ingesting small amounts of bee pollen leading up to spring. My absolute favorite ways to consume it are in smoothies or sprinkled atop granola and almond milk. Since incorporating this practice into my life, I am thrilled to say that I no longer suffer from seasonal allergies. As someone who does not like to be dependent on medication, I’m forever grateful for this natural remedy!

Bee pollen, deemed a superfood and potent antioxidant, is packed with vitamins, minerals, and all nine essential amino acids. To wrap your head around its effectiveness in relation to relieving seasonal allergies, think of it like a vaccine. By ingesting small amounts of bee pollen at a time, the allergens within it trigger the body to produce antibodies. Over time, these antibodies help the body build resistance to flower and tree pollen, thereby limiting or eradicating allergy symptoms.

Because pollen is so specific to the flowers and trees in a given region, purchasing local bee pollen is key. If you are located in the Philadelphia area, Swarmbustin’ Honey is an excellent option. They offer two varieties depending on the time of year: light, spring-harvested bee pollen and dark, summer- and fall-harvested bee pollen. Although I’m sure this goes without saying, if you allergic to bees in any way, shape or form, it’s probably best to stay away from it.

Do you have personal experience with bee pollen? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Slow Cooker Beef Bone Broth

There’s no denying that bone broth is trendy AF in today’s wellness world. However, the reality of bone broth is that it’s been around for centuries. Although our ancestors likely made bone broth due to a “waste not, want not” mentality (which I can totally get down with), it’s also jam-packed with all kinds of nutrients. While this is not an exhaustive list by any means, here are some nutrients that bone broth contains:

  • Healing compounds like glycine, collagen, proline, and glutamine
  • Easy-to-absorb nutrients like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur
  • Anti-inflammatory compounds like condroitin sulfate and glucosamine

What do these nutrients do for the body? I’m so happy that you asked. Regular consumption of the above nutrients has the power to:

  • Heal leaky gut syndrome
  • Support the immune system
  • Improve joint and bone health
  • Eliminate food intolerances and allergies
  • Reduce cellulite and wrinkles
  • Boost cellular and liver detoxification

As someone who’s not a big meat eater, it’s important to me that I consume animal-based products mindfully. That’s why, when it comes to bone broth, one of my favorite brands is Kettle & Fire. So many “bone broths” on the market are a far cry from the real deal, but this company knows what’s up. Their bones come from 100% grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free cattle. Their vegetables and herbs are organic. Their broth is slow-simmered for 20+ hours. Of course, with all of those wonderful things comes a hefty price tag. Once I could no longer keep up with my bone broth habit, I did some math and determined that making my own bone broth would be much more economical.

There are two crucial steps in the bone-broth-making process that cannot be missed! The first step, blanching, is crucial because it removes the nasty bits from the bones. You don’t want that funk in your broth! The second step, roasting, is arguably even more crucial because this is what gives the broth its dense, savory flavor. Skip this step and your bone broth will be…meh.

While we’re on the topic of flavor, let’s talk salt. Personally, I don’t add salt to this recipe because I prefer to season my broth just prior to consumption, depending on what I’m using the broth for at the time. Although I love to incorporate it into my cooking, more times than not, I simply heat it up, season it with some Himalayan salt, and sip it from a mug.

Making your own bone broth is not only economical, but also ridiculously easy. Throw some stuff in a pot, throw some stuff in the oven, throw some stuff in a slow cooker…BOOM! In terms of both nutrients and flavor, the longer your broth simmers, the better. So, as a nurse who works 12 hours shifts that leave me away from the home for at least 14 hours, I usually whip up a batch just prior to leaving for work. The delicious smell that I come home to is an added bonus.

Now, I present to you the recipe, which yields approximately 12 cups (96 oz) of broth.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 lbs beef marrow bones
  • 3 carrots, chopped into sticks
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped into sticks
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into eighths
  • 4 sprigs oregano (or herb of your choice)
  • 12 cups filtered water

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF
  • Add the bones to a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil for roughly 20 minutes; after 20 minutes has elapsed, remove from heat
  • Using tongs, remove the bones from the water and add to a baking sheet lined with foil; roast in the oven for 1 hour, turning halfway through
  • Add all solid ingredients to your crockpot; cover with filtered water and cook on low for 12+ hours
  • Once your desired cook time has elapsed, strain through a fine meshed sieve and discard the solid ingredients

Storage:

  • Store the broth in four 32 oz mason jars, filling no further than the 24 oz line; this will prevent the jars from breaking as the broth freezes
  • Once the broth has been poured into mason jars, allow it to cool in the refrigerator prior to freezing; this will also prevent the jars from breaking as the broth freezes
  • I prefer to leave a jar in the refrigerator so that I have some readily available to me

2018 Intentions

Goals. Resolutions. Intentions. There’s no denying that these words are thrown around like confetti during the start of a new year. Although they mean roughly the same thing, I find that the word “intention” is the most robust of the three, so that’s what I’m rolling with. Admittedly, I used to think that new year’s resolutions were dumb. “No one ever sticks to them anyway,” I’d mutter to myself. However, gradually, over time, I’ve found that setting realistic goals at the start of a new year can be incredibly powerful. After all, small changes can make a substantial differences in our overall wellbeing.

I’ll be honest: I’ve been kicking myself for not having this post ready to go on New Year’s Day. As I’m sure most of you can relate to, the month of December was a complete blur, and before I knew it, 2018 was here. Although writing this post has been on the forefront of my mind from January 2nd onward, the perfectionist in me fought back. If it wasn’t posted on January 1st, it’s no longer relevant, right? WRONG!

For the first time ever, I’m excited about declaring my intentions publicly. I’ve never been super vulnerable on this platform, and it’s about time I change that. There’s also something incredibly powerful about putting a pen to paper and writing my intentions down. If nothing else, putting my intentions out there for all to see will hold me accountable. With all of that being said, why wait until 2019 – another 358 days – when I’m ready to start crushing my intentions now, in this very moment.

Be okay with silence. Better yet, embrace it! If I’m alone, I find myself latching on to music, podcasts, and social media to fill the silence. Although these things will always have a time and a place in my life, there is something to be said for enjoying time with yourself and yourself only. Life is noisy both literally and figuratively, so I’m choosing to embrace silence for at least 30 minutes a day.

Continue to grow spiritually through yoga and meditation. 2017 was a year of tremendous spiritual growth for me. Although I had no intention of that being the case, I loved every second of it. For several months now, I’ve been going to yoga once a week and will continue to do so. When it comes to meditation, I’ve merely dabbled with it and hope to make it more of a constant in my life in 2018. My intention is to use the Calm app for guided meditation 10 minutes a day, 3 days per week.

Use oils for emotional support on a nightly basis. About a month ago, I started to use a set of essential oils referred to as the Feelings Kit. It contains six magical bottles of oil: Valor, Harmony, Forgiveness, Release, Present Time, and Inner Child. Applying them nightly while speaking affirmations into the universe has benefited my emotional wellbeing in a multitude of ways. However, over the past week or so, I’ve been using these oils less consistently and feel more irritable and less confident in result. Back to my emotional support oils I go! I intend to use them nightly from here onward.

Commit to a half-hour of no technology before bed. Whether it’s the blue light from our screens or the content that we engage in, technology makes it incredibly difficult to unwind, thereby compromising a good night’s sleep. Additionally, limiting screen time before bed allows us to engage in more meaningful activities. Diving into a good book, drawing a hot bath, or meditating (as mentioned above) are all excellent ways to utilize this time.

Allow for 8-10 hours of sleep. Some people can function on six hours of sleep. I am not and never have been one of those people. Instead, I am the best version of myself when I get between eight and ten hours. As problematic as that can be in a world where 24 hours in a day is not enough, I’ve learned that shifting my mindset is key when it comes solving this problem. When I get adequate sleep, I get more done in less time. Why compromise my precious sleep when I’ll spend the day lollygagging around anyway? Further, allowing for more sleep means cutting out the bullsh*t. Did I really need to stay up till midnight, scrolling through Instagram while binge-watching Bravo shows? Absolutely not.

Exercise in a variety of ways 3-5 days per week. Variety is the spice of life! I’ve found that I enjoy exercise the most when I switch things up. Luckily, the ClassPass app makes this super easy to do. After some experimentation over the past year or so, I’ve found that HIIT, yoga, barre, reformer pilates, and cycling are my favorite ways to get my heart pumping. Gone are the days in which I force myself to engage in exercise that I hate. (Ahem – running.)

Eat more plants. Ditch the meat, dairy, and gluten as much as possible. I feel so much better in every which way when I eat a plant-based diet. After all, food is fuel. I know how to eat healthy and I know how to make healthy food taste good. However, when it comes to food, self-control is something that I’ve always struggled with. So, this intention really comes down to being more mindful about what I’m consuming. Instead of mindlessly inhaling a mediocre cheesesteak at 2 am or grabbing a handful of stale cookies from the nurses’ station, I have to ask myself: Is it worth it worth the empty calories? Is it worth the sub-par taste? Is it worth how you’ll feel in several hours?

Limit alcohol intake to weekends and special occasions. In the moment, drinking to my heart’s content seems like a great idea. However, the following day – when I sleep the morning away, have a pounding headache, skip the gym, and eat terribly – makes me feel awful both physically and mentally. Loading myself with empty calories isn’t ideal either. Because I’m a social person and because social activities tend to revolve around drinking, limiting instead of abstaining is most realistic for my lifestyle.

Start saving money. For real. There’s no denying it. I’m a huge spender. Because I like nice things and work hard for my money, I’ve embraced the YOLO mentality for far too long. While I’ve “saved” over the past several years, it’s nothing to write home about and certainly hasn’t set me up for the future. Now that I’m rapidly approaching my thirties, it’s time to buckle down. This is scary to write, but here goes nothing: I will increase my retirement contribution to 10% and ensure that 20% of my paychecks end up in my savings account.

There you have it, ladies and gents! My 2018 intentions are officially on blast. If you feel so inclined, I’d love to hear about yours! May your 2018 be full of countless blessings. :)