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!

Forgotten Longwood Garden Photos and a Lesson in Extreme Gratitude

Today, I took on the daunting task of sorting through thousands of photos and videos. Deciding which to keep and which to toss was arguably the most time-consuming, emotionally-draining aspect of the whole endeavor, but the mere act of backing everything up takes time as well. Although I had been dreading this task for months, it swiftly morphed into a lesson of extreme gratitude. The highlight reel of my life quickly reminded why we collect memorabilia in the first place.

On a day-to-day basis, I find it so incredibly easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Most of the time, I can’t help but feel like I’m simply going though the motions. However, after sifting through what felt like an endless collection of photo and video footage, an overwhelming sense of gratitude washed over me. My heart felt like it was about burst. I mean, seriously, how lucky am I to have lived so much life in my short 29 years? Better yet, how lucky am I to have done so with such incredible people by my side? The best part of all is that I’m just getting started.

In the midst of re-living so many precious memories, I came across a group of photos that I had intended on sharing but ended up completely forgetting about. They were taken at Longwood Gardens on Mother’s Day of last year. I figured, better late than never, I’d share them with you guys. If Longwood Gardens is accessible to you and you have never been, do yourself a favor and visit its beautiful grounds this spring. If not, please enjoy some of my favorites from the day.

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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

5 Products That Have Changed My Hot Yoga Practice

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How ironic is it that the style of yoga that I once claimed to hate is the style of yoga that ultimately led me to practice multiple times a week? Hot yoga is now my most treasured workout, and I look forward to stepping onto my mat prior to each and every class. Now that it’s a constant in my life, I can’t imagine my wellbeing without it.

Now, let me give you a little background as to why I came to the conclusion that I “hated” hot yoga. Once upon a time, I decided to check out a new yoga studio without taking the time to read the class description, and low and behold, I arrived at a hot yoga studio. I went into that class with the mindset that the heat would make me feel claustrophobic, and what do you know? It did. This was when I was practicing yoga sporadically, averaging about one class per month, so this experience did little to encourage me to practice more regularly.

Then, one random day, I had the overwhelming desire to attend another hot yoga class, and the rest is history. To this day, I can’t explain what came over me, but I’m so incredibly grateful that I listened to my heart. I went into that class with the mindset that it would make me feel grounded in a way that I never had before, and what do you know? It did. You see, mindset is everything.

Spirituality aside, there are several other reasons why my love for hot yoga runs deep. I am not an innately flexible person, so the heat is a game changer for my flexibility. I can touch my toes, for crying out loud! While that may seem like a small feat for some, it’s a huge accomplishment for someone who hasn’t been able to do so since elementary school. Secondly, the heat makes me sweat like a maniac, allowing for an intense detox that makes me feel completely refreshed. Last, but certainly not least, the heat allows for some intense breath work. Yep, you read correctly! The reason that I once “hated” hot yoga is now one of the reasons that I love it. It is undoubtedly more challenging to breathe amidst the heat, which forces me to be more mindful about my breathing. In turn, I feel more meditative and connected.

As with all hobbies, investing in high-quality products can make the world of a difference. See below for some products that have rocked my yogi world!

eKO Mat by Manduka

I did a ton of research before I took the chance on a yoga mat, and this was the lucky winner. It has yet to disappoint! There are a few reasons why I’m obsessed with it. Its density is not too thin or too thick; instead, it’s juuust riiight. It’s also got excellent grip to it, which is particularly important for hot yoga. I’m sweaty and clumsy AF, so I need all the help I can get in that department. Perhaps the reason why I love it the most is that it’s made from non-Amazon natural tree rubber. This means that it is made from both sustainable and non-toxic material, and you know I’m all about that life.

The (Small) Towel by lululemon

Have I mentioned that I’m a sweater? These incredibly absorbent towels allow me to look somewhat presentable after class. However, they serve a purpose during class as well! Made of microfiber, they allow for additional grip. Because my hands tend to slip the most, I keep one of these towels at the top of my mat. For being as absorbent as they are, I was pleasantly surprised by how little room they take up in my bag.

Insulated Water Bottle by Hydro Flask

While drinking water during yoga practice is generally discouraged due to its interference with the ushna (heat) that the body has worked to generate, there are times in which pausing to drink water feels necessary. In these instances, I want my water to be cool and refreshing. That’s why I’m obsessed with my Hydro Flask. It keeps my water chilled for an absurd number of hours, so the higher temperatures of hot yoga studios have nothing on this bad boy. I have the 32 oz wide mouth bottle, but the world is your oyster!

Sacred Frankincense Essential Oil by Young Living

Although similar, traditional Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) and Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) are two distinct plant species. Traditional Frankincense is indigenous to Somalia and is considered the “workhorse” of the two because it’s so versatile. Sacred Frankincense, on the other hand, is indigenous to Oman and is thought to be the variety that is referred to in the Bible. Outside of Oman citizens and Saudi royalty, Gary Young (the founder of Young Living) is the only individual with access to this sacred crop. How freaking cool! As it has a higher vibrational frequency than traditional Frankincense, it is most commonly used for spiritual and meditation purposes. This is precisely why I use it just prior to engaging in yoga practice. First, I add a couple drops to the palms of my hands and rub it onto the back of my neck. Then, I cup my hands around my nose and mouth, taking several deep inhalations. It is incredibly grounding, and it shifts my state of mind from overdrive to calm within minutes.

Breathe Again Roll-On by Young Living

This powerhouse essential oil blend is comprised of Peppermint, Myrtle, Copaiba, Blue Cypress, and four varieties of Eucalyptus. In combination, these oils are known to open up respiratory channels and aid in effective breathing. Because breath work is a foundational component of yoga practice, I’m sure it’s a no brainer as to why I incorporate this essential oil blend into mine. I especially love that it comes in a roller bottle so that I can quickly roll it onto my chest just prior to class.

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. :)