A Social Media Break: Why and How

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A Social Media Break: Why and How

Technology, like money or fame (or the presidency) brings out and amplifies what’s already inside of you.

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Why I Took a Social Media Break

You’ll see it out there, and you can probably smell it through the screen: there are people whose lives are dictated by the photos they can share of their social media persona. Their experience of something lasts about as long as it takes to snap the perfect pose and get the most flattering light--the most likes. Capturing and posting about their experiences puts them in pursuit of the prettiest-looking food, the coolest backdrops, and a perfect #plandid pose that says “What? I stand like this all the time…” Also a “plandid” is a real thing, you guys—a cultural phenomenon wherein someone “plans” to look “candid.” To me, this mishmash word represents the ACTUAL void that exists: It reveals that all someone really wants is to live a life so exciting, so beautiful, so full of energy (or so cool and brooding) that SOMEONE ELSE feels inspired to capture it—and you can’t be bothered to stop for a SECOND to take a photo, you are just so entranced in your living. (And if your life gets too #real, you’re not wearing a brand new outfit or brunching at the hottest new avocado toast establishment, you can just #latergram something more plandi-glam.) 

I think the kind of joie de vivre we’re posing for does actually exist—I know it does—but there’s no plandid way to experience it. I think we all need to stop for a beat and decide what we’re doing with this thumb-twiddling tool. 

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I’ll be the first to admit: I absolutely love Instagram. I’ve met some of my closest real-life friends through this bizarre channel. I’ve connected with inspiring mentors. It has had such a positive impact on my actual life that my husband and I have discussed what kind of strategy I might need to employ in the future to maintain this valuable gold nugget of social media. We’re a military family and we move a lot, but wherever we go my social media experience has connected me to women who have become my life-long friends. I don’t intend to just let that go.

However, there are aspects of it I’ve taken some much-needed time to re-evaluate.

I started to notice my own trends, the ebbs and flows, of my social media experience. I started to see where the image I was preemptively curating in my mind was beginning to dictate my real life experiences. ("That _______ would make a great Instagram post.") It was innocent at first. I loved taking pretty well-lit pictures of the food I was making (I still do!), and I was keen to share recipes and encourage others in their own kitchens. Then I would start thinking to myself “I can’t make that for dinner, I just posted about that 4 days ago…” and I had to come up with something new and novel that I could post on Instagram. And then the #fitspo started. I was taking photos of myself on a timer at the gym. And at home--like flexy ab photos. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was more concerned with getting the “right” angle, the “right” filter. Sometimes it took 5 or 10 shots to get it right. 

Oh, and this is KEY: to make your narcissism seem less narcissistic, you just have to add some kind of inspirational message or quote. (Or make fun of yourself. Either works.)

(Guys...I took this photo on a self timer. BY MYSELF IN A BATHROOM. #Plandid2015 #help The first step is admitting there's a problem, right?...)

(Guys...I took this photo on a self timer. BY MYSELF IN A BATHROOM. #Plandid2015 #help The first step is admitting there's a problem, right?...)

For my first “boom” year on social media (back when having 1,000 followers was a big deal), my husband was deployed. Staying connected on social media made me feel less alone, but it also welcomed some of these more embarrassing self-photographing narcissistic behaviors that I wish I had the wherewithal to reign in at the time. 

I felt really uncomfortable the first time I agreed to do some blogging and photo-snapping for a company—a company I was actually really excited about and not in any way conflicted about working with—but when the contract was scanned over to me and we set some deadlines in place, it used language like “the influencer will…” and I realized what I had become: a “social media influencer.” That held a lot of weight for me because not only had I now earned the title of something I rather detested, but I now realized my responsibility. I have influence. What I do, what I say, the pictures I share and the words that accompany them have weight and impact on other people’s decisions. What kind of influence should I have? And why do I have influence at all? Is it because I’m attractive, or because I’m knowledgeable? Is it because I’m easy, or because I’m valuable? It was then that I decided I wanted to approach this with a little more integrity.

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In the years since, in addition to the positive aspects of social media, I've found it to be a bit of a thief of my creativity. It can certainly be used as a tool for creativity and inspiration, but every tool can be wielded as a weapon. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes says that if we’re gasping for creativity, something’s not right: “Perhaps one so admires the gifts of another, and the seeming benefits earned or received by another, that one becomes expert in mimicry, sadly content to be a mediocre ‘them’ rather than developing ones own unique gifts to their absolute and startling depths. Perhaps one has become caught in a hyper-fascination or a hero-worship and has no idea how to mind their own inimitable gifts. Perhaps one is afraid, for the waters are deep, the night is dark, and the way is very long; just the right conditions needed for development of one’s own original and precious gifts.” 

There are some truly positive, truly inspiring, informative, funny, real-life light-emanating movers and shakers online. We love them. We need them. We want to be them.  They show us what social media is capable of. And then our photos start to look like theirs, our language starts to traffic in the same vocabulary and meditate on the same themes. We start to use their life as a shopping guide, as a staging tutorial, as a mind-masturbator. It can get dark fast.

I don’t want to fall prey to that. Even more, I don’t want to BE that to anyone else. Here's what I DO want, and I'll let William Henry Channing sensuously stroke your brain with these life #goals:

"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently; await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony."

I can't be content to live with small means when I'm bombarded with advertisements online. Instagram is a breeding ground for "seek[ing] luxury" and "fashion." How can I "await occasions" when I'm candidly-planning them for a post on social media? How can we welcome "unbidden" adventures into our lives if we're always posing? If we're always posting? If we're always postponing actual life?


How to Take a Social Media Break

You might need a social media break if any of the following symptoms and traits describe you: 

  • Spending too much time on your phone
  • “Text neck,” and other poor postures
  • Physical anxiety about forgetting your phone, responding to notifications, performance of a post, etc.
  • Physical anxiety and depression from comparing your life and your popularity to others’
  • Habit and muscle memory have you clicking into social media apps at stop lights, in check out lines, and other short but frequent opportunities.
  • Poor sleep (from LED/Blue light exposure, especially at night
  • EMF and radiation exposure, especially in pregnancy and around children
  • Taking pictures, posting, and scrolling instead of being present
  • You're the 45th President of the United States
  • Distraction from family and friends 
  • Making life, travel, fashion, and food choices based on their potential appeal to your social media following
  • Your social media usage affects the behaviors and expectations of others around you
  • Reliance on social media for news and information
  • Conflicting interests with business & personal life (needing social media to make money)
  • Using your social media influence as a measure of your character
  • Relying on a number of “likes” to feel important, appreciated, and “liked” 
  • The branding or persona you nurture online is distinctly different from who you are in reality
  • Feeling stress about not keeping up, providing content, and meeting demands imposed by social media

I decided I was going to take a break when I heard my daughter say, "Mom, you have to put your phone down so you can watch me." I was taking a picture of her--I was proud of her for scaling and scrambling up high on something, I thought it fit well with some kind of themed message about letting kids take risks and be independent. Good intentions, I thought. But misguided. Distracted. Not present for my kid. I was inspired to take the leap listening to Katy Bowman's podcast episode about this very topic.  She describes all the steps for doing it effectively. You can listen to it here Episode 75 - A Social Media Break and check out Episode 80 - Social Media is Shaping Your Body.

Here's a fun 3 minute blurb, too. (Are any of you reading this on your phone?...)

In addition to that information, here are some steps I took to make my own social media break successful, and some helpful tools to help you create a new framework for reconstructing your relationship with social media.

1. Delete the app entirely - Get it off your phone. Make it difficult or impossible to access it elsewhere. Have a friend change the password for you until your break is over if you have to. 

2. Put something else--something better--in its physical place - Wherever you used to organize the app button on your phone, replace it with something else. I highly recommend the app "Moment" which tracks the amount of time you've spent on your phone each day, and also records the number of times you pick it up to activate the home screen (the national average is over 100 times). The paid version will allow you receive reminders to log off or set daily limits, which is great to model if you have kids or teens using devices at home. We can't kick the habit and the addiction of social media if we just put something equally time-sucking in its place, whether it's reading the news, playing games, or scrolling through your photos. Let's change the actual behavior around the device. 

3. Be mindful - Consciously evaluate and keep track of your mindset. Do you feel like you're missing out? Why? Do you find yourself thinking in social-media-speak or wishing you could post about something? Why? What do you do with the time you're not online? Do you feel any sense of relief? How does this change affect your productivity, your relationships? Take stock of ALL of it.

4. Have a plan for your return - Set some clear boundaries for yourself. Establish specific goals. Curate your experience to remove the anxiety-triggers and symptoms you might have identified with in the above list. Ensure you won't backtrack to old behaviors.


I'm working on that last one right now. 

See you soon,

-Chloe

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Caffeine Goes Wild

Caffeine Goes Wild

All of your caffeine is imported. Just let that "steep" for a minute...

Your coffee is imported from countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Indonesia. You’re getting teas from as far away as India and China, matcha from Japan, and Yerba Mate from Argentina and Paraguay.  Even synthetic caffeine is imported to the U.S. at a rate of 7 million kilograms per year for use in sodas and energy drinks. This often-essential element of our daily lives is so far-reaching with so many ecological, sociological, and even moral implications we are unable to see from the other side of the coffee bar.  As with any agricultural staple in high demand, the side effects follow close behind: mono cropping and the destruction of land, unethical labor practices, and the immeasurable emissions it creates to process and transport it all.  It’s an incredible irony: the energy-for-energy exchange—the land tilled, the natural resources consumed; all that energy literally poured into a 12oz styrofoam cup.  But Yaupon can change all that.  It’s our invitation back to this land. Most of us are strangers here, and we’re part of a centuries-long displacement project, thrusting plant and animal strangers onto the landscape and into the food chain; eradicating others entirely. Yaupon is an opportunity to close that loop of global impact and local degradation. We can bring it all home, back to our ecology, back to our history, back to the wild, and still maintain our modern morning ritual.

Most of us have cleaned up our morning caffeine ritual the best we can.  We’ve got our hipster infusion trinkets, our Chemex and our cold brew, we’re amping it up with butter and chaga and we don’t leave home without our reusable travel cups.  We purchase products that are as fair-trade and organic as possible, but our choices—our vices—still have a powerful ecological impact.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “the United States is the single largest importer of organic coffee, accounting for 40 percent of worldwide imports” and coffee is the single most valuable organic import in this region.  While it is certainly beneficial to support organic and fair trade products over the conventional options, it says a lot about our culture and our mindset that imported coffee is what we seem to value most. There are companies raking in money selling t-shirts and mugs that say “But first, coffee” capitalizing on the ubiquitous attitude of necessity we maintain about our coffee. 


Above even our morning caffeine rituals, we should value interaction with nature, plant medicine, foraging and self-sufficiency, vibrant health, and supporting local ecology.  Yaupon aligns with all of these values. It is itself deeply ingrained in ritual use by indigenous cultures of North America. From the Cherokee meaning “the beloved tree,” Yaupon was once revered as a treasured offering from the land. We still see it that way.  (We also tried fitting “But first, a ritual of gratitude for the plant medicine of the beloved tree” on a t-shirt, but it felt a little facetious…)

If it seems a bit like Yaupon is a dream come true, you’re exactly right. The coastal Carolina natives’ story of discovering Yaupon all began with a dream. “According to this story, an Indian man had been plagued by a lingering illness that none of the Indian doctors could cure. One day he fell asleep and dreamed that if he took a decoction of the tree that grew at his head, he would be cured. When we awoke he discovered the Yaupon tree growing there even though it had not been there when he had fallen asleep. The man followed the directions of his dream and was quickly cured” (from Black Drink, Hudson, 1979). In time, Yaupon became one of the most valued plants to natives from as East as the coastal Carolinas, as South as Florida and Alabama, and as West as central Texas. The decoction—called “Black Drink” or “Cassina”—was used in ritual ceremonies preceding important events like battle or trade transactions, taken as a biliary medicine, or drunk as a social peace offering with early settlers. After generations of ambiguity and misrepresentation, we are waking up to Yaupon yet again. It fulfills our dream to reconnect with our landscape and integrate with our local ecology. It offers us a way to engage with meaningful and nutritive ritual—not as an appropriation of a far-off culture, but as a respect for the land we call home and the history of the very soil we stand on. 

Solstice Ceremony for the #SoBasic

Solstice Ceremony for the #SoBasic

Spirituality is the belief that you are more than your physical body, and that you have purpose beyond your own survival.

Admittedly, I'm a pretty #basic white American woman who grew up without ceremony, without inner spirituality, without cultural context outside of American Protestantism and some Snapple-cap iterations of eccentric Eastern wisdom. I'm partially part of the caricature of millennial BurningMan-Bonaroo-Babes who desperately want to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves, to feel free in our femininity, to be "spiritual" and enlightened but with no real clue how to get there (hint: it's not flower crowns and fringe vests). The other part of me is an experienced woman who feels really grounded in this season of my life after giving birth twice and discovering with certainty the power of my own intuition. So somewhere in there is something resembling truth.

Doesn't it feel like all the different women inside you are at odds sometimes? Like your life is bifurcated and taxonomized into roles?: wife, mother, professional, supreme sexual being, home-maker, artist, activist, project-manager, teacher, emotional communicator, on and on. How can we be all these women in a single day? In one body? Reconciling this is a big part of my personal solstice ceremony today.

So it's June 21st, 2017. Let me outline briefly some significances of today. 

- Eight years ago I stood in a tiny white New England church--a good little Christian girl--and I married the absolute love of my life. I wore the white dress and the veil, I did all the traditional vows, I did all the traditional things I was "supposed" to do. Eight years later, even though we are both VASTLY different people (and haven't set foot in a church for years), we have BRIDGED so much of the space between us, exposing more truth and becoming more visceral in our partnership. So today I celebrate being married to someone who affords me so much malleability and personal freedom. 

- It's also the solstice; the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer; a day of the greatest solar energy and the changing of seasons. I didn't know eight years ago how appreciative I would be for our anniversary to coincide with the summer solstice and what a potent analogy our marriage would be for an intense seasonal shift. What a bright light it would be and a warm environment for raising children together.

- It has been three months since giving birth to my son, and I am ready to graduate myself out of birth recovery, out of my pregnancy & birthing stage of life, and into what's next. I'm ready to join the rest of the world again.

I don't have the culture or the community to recognize all of these important aspects of my life. I don't have a book to consult or an expert to look to. I just have a knowing and a recognition of their importance, and a desire to define them for myself. For now--for today--I think that's enough. So I held a little ceremony for myself, pulling together bits and pieces of practices I've gathered, meaningful objects and the like, to create a time to recognize all of these women within me and to remind them all they're on the same team. They're all me.

I didn't write a sweet new fad ceremony for you yourself to take home and revolutionize your spiritual practice, so I won't share every single detail and nuance. But I will tell you a bit about some of the things I chose for myself and why, in the hopes that you can give yourself a similar experience to recognize where you are in your own life.

The Intention

This is such a new-agey word that I sometimes hate, but it's the vocabulary we have to work with. My intention for this, my goal, the image I held in my mind, was for all these facets of myself to coalesce as one. Also to let go with gratitude the parts of me that have served their purpose and which I have now outgrown. To know that being a mom, being sexual, and being a professional woman are not switches I have to turn on and off. They're also not "who I am." Who I am is a being who gives my energies to the various experiences of motherhood, sex, and personal development. I can give my energy to my motherhood and still be sexy AF. I can take all those glasses of feminine characteristics and pour them into the same pool, stir them all up, and go with the flow. That's what makes me most happy.

The Senses

I like to integrate my senses into my meditation practice, and I think they're par for the course in most ceremonial practices. There's sacred incense, there's the partaking of food, chanting, dancing, art. Across cultures, the senses that help us experience the world can be channeled to help us experience something outside of it, too. Or at the very least they hold meaning. I wanted to experience the different parts of myself through my senses, recognize them all, and give some synthesis. I made various smokes and held space for myself with each scent, mentally letting go of different things as the smoke rose into the air. I anointed different parts of my body with oils, playing in to the sensual experience and showing gratitude to my body. Not just in a general way and a functional way, but really spending time and attention on it, hovering for a beat over areas that, to me, are sort of the governing regions of my various feminine facets (breasts = motherhood, hands = productivity, thighs = sexuality, throat = communication, and so on). I practiced with my yoni egg, giving my womb recognition for its hard work and handing it back over to pleasure and creativity. This was all over the course of imbibing the very last of my placenta. It was part of my own understanding that when the cup was empty, the ceremony would be over, the transition would be complete, and I would cross the threshold. 

The Threshold 

Usually a ceremony has an end point, at which time something is accomplished or something is formally recognized. This ceremony was for me to recognize the end of my pregnancies, the end of my birthing experiences, and the end of my post-partum recovery. I have given myself the space, the patience, and the nourishment to regain my strength and drive. I'm ready to join the world again; to come out of the warm post-partum cocoon and be a force again. I'm ready to synthesize with more of myself than just the "mother," and still honor her at the same time.  This day, when the sky is filled to the absolute brim with light, is a day to recognize myself as restored and filled to the brim with my own light.

So yeah, there was some smoke that went up and some hippie-dippie stuff that went down, and at the end of it all, I finished that cup, I gave myself the recognition I deserve, I honored what was, and I crossed the threshold. It was all to recognize a graduation from a season of my life. Some people like to buy themselves a new wardrobe, I like to do weird shit Naked in my backyard. 

All of that is to say that ceremony doesn't require the perfect assortment of phrases, the right incense, or a prescribed set of tasks. Maybe the ceremonies from your past aren't equipped to facilitate the kind of growth you want to experience or the flavor of spirituality you want to taste. Outside of religion and dogma and even cultural appropriation, I think an authentic attempt to know yourself, and to create space for yourself to let go and take a step forward in your life is universally valuable.

My Daily Self-Care Routine

My Daily Self-Care Routine

A few days ago I posted a series of videos on my Instagram story @wholly.chloe detailing my morning self-care routine, and it broke my tiny corner of the internet!

Within minutes I had dozens of direct messages and comments asking follow-up questions, and when the story expired 24 hours later, there was an overwhelming number of requests to repeat the information. (I was especially excited that so many women wanted more information about their intimate feminine care! That's important!) I was able to save and compile the original video series, which I've included below along with a list of the products mentioned, some resources, and some Q & A. Enjoy!


Here is the original video


Here are some excellent educational interviews with skin care expert and entrepreneur, Nadine Artemis of LivingLibations.com


Lastly, here are some of the most frequently asked questions I received:

1. "How do you keep your hair clean between washes, especially after working out?"

I like to do an apple cider vinegar rinse to get that slippery just-conditioned feeling without using too much product. There's a good description of that here: Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse.

2. "I switched to non-toxic products but now my skin is really dry. What do I do?"

Going non-toxic is just the first step in giving your self-care the turn-over. Just because something ISN'T dangerous doesn't mean it's the optimal product for your body. Most chemical-laden products have ingredients that give skin that temporarily-plump and luscious texture. When you switch to non-toxic the soapy residue can often be a little sticky, and if the products contain glycerin and other temporarily-plumping but eventually-drying ingredients things can go downhill fast. Glycerin is a totally "safe" ingredient, but it's not optimal for maintaining your skin's acid mantle and pH. The next step after purging the toxic chemicals is to find a product that works in harmony with your skin. For starters, tallow-based products, jojoba oil, sesame oil, and olive oil are all relatively close to your skin's pH.  Personally, my skin LOVES seabuckthorn oil. It may take some experimentation to find an oil that makes your skin happy, but it will definitely be an OIL and not a SOAP that does the trick. (P.S. if you're breaking out or not having luck with coconut oil, don't be surprised! You may have an allergy or sensitivity, and it may not be jiving well with your skin's pH. You're not broken, coconut oil just isn't the most magical substance for all skin!)

3. "How do you keep your "downstairs" clean without specific vaginal care products?"

This isn't a bad question at all, but it does reveal a LOT about our culture that women are specifically targeted for vaginal care products and perfumes, but I've never once seen an ad or a commercial for the male equivalent--can you imagine?! You might even argue that theirs needs even more freshening up, but it's really only women that are targeted for shame-based products. The female reproductive organs are intelligent powerhouses that can care for themselves, but we have to help facilitate its natural function by maintaining the proper pH and keeping them safe from chemicals and sugar-based products. You can check out THIS AWESOME TALK by Nadine Artemis about vaginal care. (And since it came up in questions, even though I won't be menstruating for a while during my breastfeeding stage, I have had a great experience with the Diva Cup reusable menstrual cup, because we also need to keep our downstairs clear of bleached and chemical-laden feminine hygiene products). 

4. "How do you wash your face and get makeup off at the end of the day?"

I use the Feather Eagle Sky cleansing beauty oil AS my facial cleanser. It's called "oil cleansing," and it works by using oils to separate dirt and bacteria from the surface of your skin which is then rinsed off, but without stripping or disrupting the fatty acid mantle on the top of your skin, which is what keeps all that bacteria out in the first place. It seems counter-intuitive, but you'll notice more hydrated and plump skin and fewer breakouts. The oils and good bacteria on your face are YOUR BEST FRIENDS against breakouts, you just have to treat them well and give them a nice cozy place to live. Oil cleansing cuts straight through makeup and mascara, so I don't need several products--just one--to remove make up, cleanse, and moisturize. When I'm traveling or camping, this is all I need! 

5. "OMG, HOW OLD ARE YOU?!"

I'm a baby-faced 29-year-old. Not that it matters much to me, but I will certainly enjoy looking youthful and healthy well into my later years by taking care of my skin NOW. In addition to the products I use that also means lots of quality fats in the diet, healthy staple foods like bone broth which is rich in collagen, healthy sun exposure without the use of chemical sunscreens, avoiding xenoestrogens and endocrine disruptors, and lots of smiling and laughing. 

6. "Do you still dry brush when you're sweaty, like after a workout?"

Yes. Dry brushing won't scrub all that stuff back into your skin--your skin is a very intelligent organ with a good one-way street for sweat. You just want to help maintain that fatty acid mantle and do your best to keep your dry brush clean. To do this, use about two drops of essential oil in the palm of your hand (a few that I enjoy that are safe for the skin without a carrier oil are lavender and frankincense) then drag your dry brush through it on both sides before brushing your skin. The oils will feel and smell amazing on your skin, but they'll also prevent bacteria from thriving on the surface of your brush. Living Libations also sells lympathic oils specifically for dry brushing, and you can order a sweet copper-bristled dry brush from there, too (copper is naturally anti-microbial). 

7. What kinds of oils do you use for the rest of your body?

I do use the entire line of products from Feather Eagle Sky, but I also have some other things on hand that I enjoy using that are friendlier on the budget. The first is the Primally Pure body butter (which is tallow-based), and the second is an organic body oil from Badger which you can find at most health food stores. I like this one because it has great-for-your-skin oils like seabuckthorn, olive oil, jojoba, etc. but it's a little more diluted with the less-expensive oils so you don't have to feel stingy about putting it on all over. 

8. "What products does your daughter use?"

My daughter uses pretty much all of the same stuff I use!  Sometimes we use bubble bath from Babyganics, toothpaste from Weleda, and detangler from Honest Company, but these all contain glycerin and other natural-but-not-optimal ingredients so I don't give them my highest recommendation. I like products from Wash With Water though! Check them out!

9. "How long do you go between hair washes?"

Depends on the season and what I'm up to, but it's usually in the 7-10 day range, and I worked up to that over a couple years. 

10. "My only concern is that people would take [this advice] as their only skin advice, and miss out on some other important points." (i.e. anti-aging and preventing sun spots)

Valid concern. Don't do that. This is what I put on my face and I like it. I also like my face and I don't care about aging, so you won't find that advice here. "You should always consult a licensed skin care specialist before changing your routine" (I guess I'm kind of required to say that...)
 


Thanks for reading!

-Chloe

The Unicorn Frappu-cleano

The Unicorn Frappu-cleano

Everyone is raving about Starbucks' new Unicorn Frappuccino -- a brightly-colored sparkling sweet treat. Because "treat yo-self," right? Well, as a nutritional therapist I don't think 59 grams of sugar counts as a treat.  That's an overdose. 

To celebrate spring, mystical magical unicorns, and TRULY treating yourself, here's a recipe full of shizandra and spirulina, not simple syrups, sugar, and ALL OF THIS OTHER CRAP.  Not only is this beautiful and fun, it's nutrient-dense.  Unicorns may not be real, but there's NOTHING fake about this "frappu-cleano." 

You can play with and alter these ingredients and directions based on what you have available to you.  Basically you want the blue layer to be thick enough to stick to the inside of the jar, and then the pink inner smoothie can be any pink smoothie concoction you like! 

Blue Layer

1/4 banana

1/4 cup full fat canned coconut milk (mostly the fat)*

1 scoop collagen powder

1 tsp raw honey or quality maple syrup (optional)

1/2 tsp Moondeli Blue Green Protein **

*You could also use a different milk alternative mixed with another fat like butter, ghee, or coconut oil to thicken.

**Spirulina provides the natural color (it's even in the Starbucks version). It's relatively easy to find at most health food stores.

Blend ingredients until smooth and transfer to a squeeze bottle. Drizzle along the inside of the jar before pouring in the rest of the smoothie.

Read more about the health benefits of spirulina
Read more about tocotrienols

Pink Layer

1 cup strawberries or frozen mixed berry blend

1 cup quality almond, coconut, or other milk

1 Tbs raw honey or maple syrup

1 tsp Surthrival organic schizandra

1 tsp Surthrival chaga extract *

*Surthrival’s chaga extract is blended with vanilla and I use it in place of vanilla extract. You can sub in an extract or organic vanilla powder.

Read about the benefits of schizandra.
Read about the benefits of chaga.

Coconut Cream Topping

1/4 cup chilled full fat coconut milk (80:20 mostly solid fat)

1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup (optional)

To make a whipped cream, whip with a hand mixer or whisk until you reach the right consistency. Top your smoothie with the whipped cream, sprinkle schizandra powder on top, and don't forget your reusable straw! 

Voila! A unicorn frappu-cleano fit for a princess. 

Postpartum Nutrition: Recipes and Philosophies for After Birth

Postpartum Nutrition: Recipes and Philosophies for After Birth

"Eating well can be the first thing to get sacrificed when time, energy, and resources are lacking, yet--paradoxically--the demands of postpartum require you to stay very well fed." - Heng Ou, The First Forty Days

The pop-health industry is quick to prey on new mothers to sell shakes, weight loss supplements, meal replacements, and fat-burning workouts aimed at “getting back your pre-baby body” and fitting into your jeans again. The truth is that giving birth is a profound stress on the body and almost a super-human feat that leaves us nutritionally depleted and in need of replenishment. The postpartum period is a time for shifting our image-conscious perspective away from whittling ourselves down, losing weight, and “bouncing back” to a new and purposeful perspective set on rebuilding ourselves, refilling our vessel with dense nutrition, and growing into a new body with a new and important purpose. In many traditional cultures, women were surrounded after birth with support, given healing teas and broths, and offered the best from her family and community with quality rest and nourishing foods. These days, we feel the pressure to be and do everything—even after birth—and fully caring for ourselves is written off as indulgence.

We have to start shifting the birth paradigm back to the mother-centered perspective. So much of birth culture focuses on the babe--what's the baby's gender, what's the name going to be, what's the nursery theme? And our medical birthing practices are the same: the mother's desires, intuitions, and abilities are second only to "getting the baby out safely." And afterward, of course, it's all about the baby, and the cute little pursed lips, and who they look like and how they're sleeping. The result is a woman who literally is never by herself, but who feels utterly and completely alone. What about mom? If we can refocus the lens to include mothers, everyone benefits. A cared for, nourished, supported mother can birth and sustain her baby, bring joy and life to her family, and have the vitality to enjoy an enriching mothering experience. 

As I relished the last three to four weeks of my second pregnancy, I prepared myself in many ways for birthing, recovering, and resting.  One way I was able to nourish myself well during pregnancy and prepare for postpartum recovery at the same time was to make nutrient-dense meals ahead of time to store in the freezer. This way family, friends, and I could easily prepare warming delicious foods that will nourish and comfort me in the weeks following my birth. 


It has been my goal during this whole pregnancy to treat myself like a client after my birth. To give myself the full attention of my skills and knowledge as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner so that I can pass this information on first-hand to other women. 

I want women to know that it's more important to spend time educating ourselves about healing nutrition than it is to research the best baby monitors; it's more important to spend money stocking our pantries with nourishment than filling a closet with adorable tiny clothes; it's more important to have a specific nutrient-dense plan and a philosophy for recovery than it is to have a weight loss goal. 

Here are some recipes from my own kitchen, some knowledge from my own training and reading, and some wisdom from my own experience. I hope it supports and nourishes you. If you are past the point of preparation, I have also included some recommendations for convenient, quality, pre-made products for purchase. 


BONE BROTH

In traditional Eastern cultures, friends and family would engage in a time called “warming the mother,” which included offering postpartum mothers slow-cooked, soft, easily-digestible and warm foods following birth. Today we know the wisdom behind this, as these warm and gentle foods offer essential nutrients for healing, but also give the digestive system a break. After birth, the body has several important tasks to attend to, like building a milk supply for lactation, repairing tissue, balancing hormones, and recovering from the physical stress of birth. Foods that are gentle on the digestive system allow your body to expend more energy on these other priorities without wasting added energy for digestion. Digestion is also one of your body’s main sources for detoxification, so as your body repairs, recycles water, and flushes out pregnancy hormones, smooth and easy digestion will make for an easier transition (and much less uncomfortable postpartum bowel movements!). Every batch is a little different since you can use up kitchen scraps or add in your favorite herbs.

Directions:

1. Collect leftover chicken, beef, or lamb bones in a large stock pot, Instant pot, or Crock pot. (Bonus: roasting the bones first adds flavor!) You can either add in kitchen scraps OR fresh chopped veggies. I usually use onion, garlic, celery, turmeric, and a bay leaf. You can also add in egg shells for added calcium and minerals, about-to-wilt greens for extra vitamins, as well as stems and tops of other whole fresh vegetables—these all still contain viable nutrients and bone broth is a great way to reduce their waste. 

2. Cover ingredients with fresh filtered water. Add 1 capful of apple cider vinegar (this helps to leach nutrients from the bones) and a few pinches of salt.

3. Cooking times will vary depending on the vessel you use. In a stock pot on the stove: simmer 8-24 hours. In a slow-cooker: Low for 6-10 hours. In an Instant Pot: Manual for 2 hours.

4. Strain the broth through a mesh colander (try to avoid very fine straining materials like cheesecloth as this can also separate out the nutritious fats, which you want distributed through the broth.) You can use the entire batch immediately for soup or sipping, or continue on to the next step for storage.

5. Let the broth cool completely to room temperature before storing. There are several ways to freeze your broth. For sipping, I like to freeze mine in mason jars. That way I can put a jar or two out to thaw then heat them in a hot water bath on the stove and drink them right out of the jar. To store in glass, pour room temperature broth into the container leaving plenty of space at the top of the jar for the broth to expand while freezing. Put the jars in the refrigerator for several hours before transferring to the freezer to prevent cracking. Another method is to freeze cubes or “pucks” of broth in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then store the cubes in freezer bags. These cubes can then be easily added to slow-cooker meals, or heated up for individual small servings. For sipping, I like to add a little bit of butter or ghee and a pinch of my favorite herb blend while it’s heating.

If you are unable to make your own bone broth, you can order three varieties of broths specifically tailored for postpartum mothers from the QUEEN of postpartum nutrition herself, the author of The First Forty Days. Her company MotherBees has been delivering postpartum broths and meals to mothers in California for several years, and they have recently expanded to offer national shipping. The broths are frozen in BPA-free bags which can be put directly into hot water for preparing, and she has some amazing special ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, lotus seeds, and lily petals. Her broths are hand made with local and fresh ingredients. Check them out at www.motherbees.com

Also check out: Osso Good Bone Broth @ www.ossogoodbones.com and Kettle and Fire Bone Broth @ www.kettleandfire.com  

CHICKEN SOUP

Add some chopped onions, celery, and carrots with some chicken from the above broth recipe, and you have a deeply nourishing easy-to-digest first food after baby arrives.  It's easy to freeze in either glass containers or plastic freezer bags--just thaw thoroughly and re-heat on the stove or slow cooker.  I added some dried nettles for some added wild plant power and minerals. Warm, soft, soothing foods are perfect for those first days home with baby. 

You can also stock up on pre-made versions like Wolfgang Puck's Organic Chicken Noodle Soup (available in many stores as well as on Thrive Market), or a variety of Amy's Organics soups. I like the vegetable barley soup and it's easy to find at most grocery stores (I add cooked chicken or ground beef to make it more substantial).


SAUERKRAUT


Another staple in my kitchen is home-made sauerkraut.  I made about a gallon of it in the weeks before I delivered so I would have plenty on hand.  Traditional raw, uncooked, lacto-fermented vegetables yield digestive enzymes, B vitamins, vitamin C (sauerkrauts made with red cabbage contain up to 700mg of vitamin C per cup!) and of course probiotics. In the days following birth, your digestive tract is under duress--for months it has been squished and scrunched up under the weight of baby and other organs, and has slowed down to save energy for the body to facilitate the important role of, you know, building a person.  Since you can't absorb and assimilate nutrients without proper digestion, it's important to really give your gut a helping hand in the first weeks after birth.  When you enjoy a side of sauerkraut with a meal, the enzymes help your stomach digest your meal more easily, and the probiotics help to populate your large intestine with the "good guys." A healthy gut can mean better sleep (melatonin is manufactured in the gut), a robust immune system (70% of your immune system is in the gut), and hormone regulation (good gut bacteria like beta-glucoronidase helps to re-uptake estrogen back into the body). 

Here are some instructions for making your own sauerkraut, and I highly recommend the book Wild Fermentation.  All it takes is cabbage and salt. There are more methods for making a successful batch of sauerkraut than there are for spoiling it, so give it a try! 

You can also purchase some excellent krauts online. Check out: OlyKraut which is locally sourced and made in my beloved Olympia, WA. Whatever you choose to buy, look for a RAW product, especially without added sugars or sweeteners. 


LIVER & ONIONS with BACON & SAGE

Quality grass-fed beef liver is a highly nutritious source of bio-available iron. Iron deficiency after childbirth is quite common, but including iron-rich foods in the diet can help to prevent postpartum anemia, shorten postpartum bleeding, fight fatigue, increase breast milk production and quality, and improve symptoms of postpartum depression. Liver is also rich in vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, and trace minerals.  You may have had family members, aunties, and grandmothers who made you eat liver and onions as a kid.  They were right to give it to you! But the texture can be a little much for people, and the flavor of all that nutritional iron can be unappetizing to some. With this recipe, the bacon, sage, and onions are the main flavors so it's perfect for new liver-lovers.  Look for liver from a grass fed or pasture raised animal.  One traditional preparation strategy to off-set the strong flavor is to soak the liver overnight in milk (preferably raw milk) and then drain the milk off before cooking. 

*For this recipe, I prepared two pounds of liver, but used only one pound for this recipe and set aside the rest for the meatloaf recipe below.

Ingredients: 
1lb grass fed beef liver, sliced thin and cut into strips

1 onion, sliced 

1 package uncured sugar-free bacon, finely chopped

1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped 

3 cups mushrooms, sliced 

4 carrots, chopped 

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped 

Directions:

1. Soak the liver in milk for several hours or overnight, then strain off the milk and rinse with filtered water. Then marinate the meat in a simple marinade like avocado oil, coconut aminos, and garlic for 3-4 hours. (The veggies in this dish also lend themselves well to a ginger/sesame flavored marinade for an Asian fusion style stir-fry.)

2. Fry the liver slices in a skillet, about 1-2 minutes per side. You will have to fry one skillet-full, set aside the cooked slices, and then cook another skillet-full. 

3. While the liver cooks, sautee the bacon pieces for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking until aromatic.  Then add the onions and cook for about 4 minutes. Add carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, then add mushrooms.  If at any point the mixture becomes dry, you can add a tablespoon of ghee, butter, avocado oil, or coconut oil. Add the sage and let the mixture continue to cook together while you cycle through the liver slices. Reduce the heat once the carrots are tender.

4. In a large bowl, combine all cooked ingredients and toss. Divide into two portions. You can either cook one portion for now and save the second for later, or store both.

             4a. If you want to enjoy one portion now, add the stir fry back into the skillet with the kale and cook for additional 1-2 minutes until the kale becomes dark green and shiny. Serve and enjoy!

             4b. To store a portion, let it cool to room temperature before adding it to a freezer bag. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat in a skillet. If you prepared any "bone broth pucks" as described above, you can add one during the reheat to add some moisture and flavor. I prefer to add fresh kale during the re-heat rather than store the cooked kale to prevent it from being too mushy. 

*If liver is a stretch for you, consider halving the portion of liver and "cutting" the recipe with either beef or chicken.

And if eating liver is just an absolute NO for you, make this delicious dish as a regular stir fry and then check out: Vital Proteins beef liver capsules @ www.vitalproteins.com


LIVER + LENTIL MEATLOAF with HONEY BALSAMIC GLAZE
 


This recipe touts a couple of post-partum recovery heavy-hitters like liver, lentils, and fennel seeds. (If you’re wary of liver and the first recipe seems too far out for you, don’t worry! You’ll never even know it’s in here.) One cup of prepared lentils packs 18g of protein and 90% of your daily value of folate, both of which are essential for supporting recovering and breastfeeding mothers. To best prepare lentils and yield their full nutritional potential, soak and sprout them first (Directions for soaking and sprouting lentils). Lastly, fennel seeds can help to stimulate the let-down reflex in nursing mothers, and is even used in traditional home remedies for calming colicky babies. It is also calming to the digestive system, which can greatly assist a new mother in her rest and recovery. This recipe yields three loaves, so you can enjoy one for dinner and freeze two for later.

Ingredients:
2 lbs grass fed ground beef
1 lb grass fed liver, cooked and chopped (I used the leftover cooked liver from the previous recipe)
3 cups lentils, soaked and sprouted
2 eggs
1/2 onion, grated
1/2 cup fennel seeds, ground
1 cup almond flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper

Glaze ingredients:
4 Tbs tomato paste (use unsweetened organic ketchup as a substitute)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs raw honey

2 Tbs coconut aminos (use a quality soy sauce as a substitute)

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 350. In a food processor or grinder, grind fennel seeds into a rough powder. Mix into a bowl with almond flour, salt, and pepper, and set aside.

2. Using a blender or a food processor, pulse liver and eggs together until smooth (some small pieces may still be intact) OR finely chop liver and mix with eggs.  In a large bowl, combine liver, eggs, and ground beef evenly. Add lentils, garlic, and onions and continue to combine.

3. Add the almond flour and fennel mixture to the meat mixture and combine evenly. Add additional almond flour if necessary to reach desired texture. Press into baking pans.

4. Mix glaze ingredients, then coat the top of each loaf generously and evenly. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until a fork can be removed cleanly from the center.

5. After baking, allow the meatloaves to cool to room temperature or slightly warmer, then drain any excess liquid from the baking pans.  You can either remove each loaf from the pan and wrap tightly in foil, or wrap and store the baking pan itself in the freezer. It is best to refrigerate them overnight before transferring to the freezer. To reheat, fully thaw the meatloaves and then bake covered at 300 for 20 minutes or until hot all the way through (to moisten them up a bit after they've been frozen, add a few tablespoons of bone broth to the pan when you reheat).  Add some extra glaze during reheating and serve with a side of mashed sweet potatoes or your favorite veggie medley.

For some pre-made options with similar ingredients, check out: Alexian liver pate @ www.alexianpate.com, Amy’s Organic lentil soup @ www.amys.com, Alvita fennel seed tea @ alvita.com


"LABOR-ADE" ELECTROLYTE DRINK

I prepared this "Laborade" electrolyte drink a little over a week before I was due and kept it in the refrigerator so that I could easily take it with me to the birth center when it was "time!" I wanted something refreshing and hydrating with plentiful electrolytes that also tasted great. This is basically an amped up lemonade--and honestly, a home made lemonade mixed with some coconut water with a little bit of unrefined sea salt would still be an excellent electrolyte drink. I wanted a wider range of minerals offered through the shilajit, as well as the flavor and benefits of shizandra berry.  Shizandra is an adaptogenic food that supports the adrenals to relieve stress, assists in balancing hormones, and promotes focus & mental clarity--all things helpful to a woman in labor!

Ingredients:

2 lemons

1 one-inch cube of fresh ginger

1 thumbnail sized cube of fresh turmeric

1 heaping spoonful Surthrival dried shizandra berry 

1 portion Shilajit mineral resin

1 cup coconut water

4 Tbs raw honey

 

Directions: 

1. Juice the lemons, ginger, and turmeric (you can fresh-squeeze the lemons and press the ginger and turmeric in a garlic press if you don't have a juicer).

2. Boil 2 cups of filtered water in a kettle.  In a mason jar or large glass, fully dissolve the honey and shilajit resin in the boiling water. Then add to the lemon juice.

3. Add the coconut water and shizandra berry, then shake or mix vigorously to combine. Store in the refrigerator. (Shake before drinking). You may continue to add coconut water and/or filtered water to taste. 


DARK CHOCOLATE LACTATION ENERGY BITES

These tasty bites are a treat and a nutrient-bomb in one! There is no specific requirement for certain foods in order to have a healthy supply of breast milk, but there are some foods that can assist the body in the process, like iron-rich oatmeal and brewer’s yeast, a galactagogue with plentiful B vitamins. Even if you (and family members) are not breastfeeding, these are tasty little bites of energy for late nights, early mornings, and mid-meal snacks, and are especially delicious with a mug of hot tea.

This is an easy recipe to modify and add to with your favorite chopped nuts or dried fruit, or a powdered version of your favorite herbs and medicinal mushrooms like ashwagandha or reishi.

Ingredients: 

2 cups organic rolled oats*
1 cup organic unsweetened dry shredded coconut
1 cup ground flax seeds
1 cup chia seeds
1 cup nut butter
1/2 cup organic cacao powder
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brewers yeast
4 scoops collagen
2 tbs vanilla

2 tbs ghee

2 tbs coconut oil

*If you don’t tolerate oats well, you can substitute large coconut flakes or pumpkin seeds to achieve a similar consistency.

Directions:

1. Mix oats, coconut, flax, chia, nut butter, honey, brewers yeast, collagen, and vanilla evenly in a large bowl.

2. In a saucepan, gently heat ghee and coconut oil until liquid, then add cacao powder and whisk until smooth. Add to oats mixture and combine evenly. Then mix in cacao nibs.

3. Chill ingredients in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then form into bite-sized balls and set onto a lined cookie sheet. Chill or freeze for 1 hour then transfer them to a storage container to freeze (using parchment paper between layers will keep them from sticking together). To enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

I stored mine in separate smaller containers with about a week’s worth so I can thaw a batch for the week and leave the rest in the freezer for later.  They should be kept in the refrigerator to prevent them from softening and melting.

With all the wonderful melty ghee, nut butter, and cacao nibs in this recipe, these snacks do not travel well. If you're looking for a couple of convenient options for lactation snacks (think on your bedside table or in your backpack or purse), two brands I've had the pleasure of reviewing are Milkful Mamas and Ommie Snacks, two small-scale women-run companies I'm happy to recommend to you.

Milkful lactation bars contain many of the ingredients as described above like oats and brewers yeast, with the addition of some other milk-boosting ingredients like black sesame seeds and fenugreek. As much as I have TRIED making bars before, I can never get them to hold together the right way for them to be easily transportable. The Milkful bars are so easy to keep in my backpack (I brought one with me for our first checkup with the midwives) or stashed around the house for an easy-to-reach bite. You also HAVE to try one slathered with your favorite nut butter--so good. All the Milkful bars are soy- dairy- egg- and wheat-free. My favorite is the maple walnut, hands down.

If your digestion is sensitive to oats though, no worries! Ommie snack bars aren't actually "lactation" snacks, but their ingredients are top notch, and most of them are made with pumpkin seeds--another milk-booster.  They're also made and packaged sustainably for minimal waste.  They're very dense and filling, easy to transport, and delicious with a mug of tea. They come in 9 different flavors, apricot chai being my overall favorite. 


HERBS, TINCTURES, & SUPPLEMENTS

I'm not an herbalist, so I will let you read about various herbs and their benefits from another source, or check out "Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding," by Demetria Clark. Once or twice a day I have a postpartum support tea with a little spoonful of coconut fat or ghee. I prefer loose-leaf teas, and there are some wonderful blends out there--look for things like red raspberry leaf (for uterine toning), fennel and fenugreek (for lactation), chamomile and lavender (for calm), rose (for uterine cramping), dandelion (for digestive support), and nettle (for ALL THE MINERALS). 

For loose herbs and some fantastic blends like their Nurse-Me-Rhyme lactation tea, check out Mountain Rose Herbs: www.mountainroseherbs.com

In addition to herbal teas, I also incorporate various tinctures and supplemental ingredients into my drinks and smoothies. 


SURTHRIVAL CHAGA - Potent anti-oxidant and immune support. I like to add this to smoothies and tea or take directly. *You can purchase Surthrival products through my affiliate link by clicking on the Surthrival banner at the bottom of the page*

SURTHRIVAL SHIZANDRA - Also known as the "beauty berry," Shizandra supports the adrenal glands, beautifies skin and hair, promotes healthy circulation and respiration, and tones the liver and kidneys. Shizandra also facilitates both stage 1 and stage 2 of detoxification, aiding the liver in removing toxins from the body.  After birth is an important natural detoxification state for women as we flush hormones, fluids, and other materials from our bodies. I like to add this to warm lemon water, teas, and placenta+fruit smoothies. 

ASHWAGANDHA - A gentle non-stimulating adaptogen to relieve stress, aid sleep, and stimulate milk production. I take it under my tongue as a tincture, or add it to lemon water or tea. 

LIQUID CHLOROPHYLL - Chlorophyll facilitates liver detoxification, blood circulation, and wound healing. It also aids in balancing blood sugar. Since the postpartum period can mean sporadic meal times and frequent snacking, blood sugar regulation is important for maintaining energy and not experiencing a crash. 


I wish you well on your journey into motherhood, whether this is your first time or your family is expanding yet again. I hope that by preparing and strategizing for your own health, that you refresh and rebuild your body, and nourish yourself with healing nutritive foods that will warm and heal you through and through.  I hope that by filling your vessel, you ascend to a new level of self-care and appreciation that propels you FORWARD into lifelong fulfillment--that you look backwards only in fondness for memories and not wistfully for what was.  Let your nourishment usher you through the threshold restored.

Further reading recommendations: 

Skincare for Pregnancy

Skincare for Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a perfect time--an IMPORTANT time--to carefully consider your skincare routine and begin making a conscious transition.


I've been on a years-long exploration delving deeper into my skincare, from the messages skincare products project on us, to the chemicals inside, to the actual function of my skin and how to support it naturally. It actually began when I was pregnant with my daughter almost four years ago. I thought "If what I eat is so important to my growing baby, what about the things I put on my skin?"  Sure enough, I found a lot of information about cosmetics products and overall health, especially in pregnancy. A small study showed 10 newborn babies born with over 230 industrial chemicals detected in their cord blood, just from the mother's exposure. And the statistic bears repeating that products put onto the skin can enter the bloodstream in as little as 26 seconds. Unlike our foods which are filtered through the digestive system, our skin doesn't contain this filtration process. This bred a new philosophy for me: if it's not safe to put in my mouth, it's not safe to put on my skin. 

Since then, my barometer for skincare products has become MORE selective and markedly LESS complicated. It includes three basic elements:

1. What's in it?
2. What is it "selling" me?
3. How harmonious is it with my body and my life?

The first stipulation rules out the obvious toxic chemicals, and has broadened to include other ingredients that seem natural or sound natural, but really aren't. Things like glycerin (which temporarily plumps but eventually dries your skin cells into "cellular raisins") and aloe vera (which usually contains secondary stabilizer ingredients which do not need to be indicated on the label, so check the sourcing of the ingredients in products you buy). I'll let the skincare Queen, Nadine Artemis, fill you in on those: "Your Skin: An Owner's Manual," "Self-Care: A Woman's Guide." 

The second stipulation has to do with how the product is marketed to me. I care about the messages I send myself, the messages I send my daughter when we perform our self-care routines together, and the messages other women receive from the products I recommend to them. I do not purchase or advocate for products that are shame-based or intend to somehow help me hide, fit in, or cast an illusion. Negative marketing for products about "blasting cellulite," or "banishing pimples," "fixing blemishes," or "fighting stretch marks," can all go to hell. Not only are all of these things totally normal, but they're signals from the body that should be listened to and nurtured back into realignment, not suffocated to death or covered up. 

The last stipulation goes along with what I have learned as a Nutritional Therapist and also as a student of my own body. I want to care for the AMAZING and EFFECTIVE fatty acid mantle on my skin, which means not washing it away with soap. I want to care for the delicate lymph in my breast tissue, which means ditching bio-accumulative aluminum from my deodorant. The list goes on, but in caring for my own body and the little body within me, it should support the already-perfect processes of our bodies.

For the Face

Jessika LeCorre's skincare line, Feather Eagle Sky, has been pretty much my ONLY facial skin care for over a year. Every product is hand made, every ingredient is meticulously and ethically grown or wild harvested, and every application is a ritual. Jessika's mission to imbue our skincare "routines" with more than just routine, more than just pretty skin. It should be a ritual of self-care, appreciation for the wise medicinal plants of the Earth, and a freedom to remove our masks and allow healthful beauty to shine through. 

As I mentioned, I don't use soaps on my skin anymore. I wash my face morning and night with Feather Eagle Sky cleansing beauty oil, and my skin just goes nuts for it. A little goes along way, and it dissolves dirt and wipes away mascara effortlessly, but without washing off your skin's natural and necessary oil mantle. Washing with soaps dries up your skin's natural protective oils, which invites in bacteria and also causes your oil glands to overcompensate and overproduce. Cleansing with oils is THE way to go. I use a scrub or a mask about once a week, and I love the Sun Face Mist after being outside. Truth be told, the immortelle in the face mist is SO multi-functional, I spray this on anything and everything from skin irritations to bruises for its healing, anti-inflammatory, and circulation-stimulating properties. 

Finally, My Deodorant Search is Over

When we recently moved from Washington State back to Texas for a while, I realized I had about a dozen different "natural deodorants" in my bathroom closet, all in unfinished quantities. At that time I had resorted to just using a few drops of jojoba oil with some sandalwood and lavender as my deodorant, and I was relatively happy with that. Moving to a warmer climate, however, I wanted to try something more. And being pregnant, as it turns out, can affect your skin's reaction to even healthy doses of ingredients like essential oils. At about 22 weeks pregnant, I had a couple of the worst lymphatic flare-ups I've ever experienced, where my underarms turned DARK RED and an itchy rash stretched all the way from my armpits down my sides to my hips, and even widened out onto parts of my chest and my back. It was miserable and each time lasted about 5-7 days, during which time I was using clays and various other natural remedies to help my skin and lymph flush out. I was about ready to commit to a full no-deodorant hippie life deep in the sweaty heart of Texas, until I tried Primally Pure.

What I noticed first was that the Primally Pure sensitive deodorant actually HEALED my flare-up--it was gone within a day of my first application. I love the texture, I love the scent, and I love a company dedicated to truly healthful ingredients. The main ingredient in several of their products is beef tallow! You can read all about the benefits of tallow-based skincare on their FAQ page, as well as in this article from the Weston Price Foundation. (The Nutritional Therapist in me nerds out when my skin care company is also on point with nutrition!)

In addition to the sensitive deodorant, I've slathered my growing bump daily with the Primally Pure body butter. Even in my second pregnancy I've avoided stretch marks, pregnancy skin irritations like PUPPS and body acne, and hyperpigmentation, which are common in many pregnancies.

Primally Pure also recently launched their new baby care line, with a tallow-based baby balm; a baby powder made with arrowroot, clay, and herbs (and doubles as a dry shampoo! #momlife!); and a calendula baby oil. 

Self-Care Rituals

Dry Brushing - Instead of harsh surfactant-riddled soaps to clean my skin, I practice dry-brushing instead. If you've never heard of or tried it before, here is a succinct explanation. Dry brushing sloughs off dead skin and stimulates blood and lymph circulation. During pregnancy, I get patches of mild vericose veins on the insides of my knees, but daily gentle dry brushing over these areas encourages healthy blood flow and makes a noticeable difference in keeping the vericosities manageable. I will continue to spend some added attention to these areas after birth to massage them back to normal. I also spend some special attention on areas where my body is creating healthy fat stores for postpartum energy and breastfeeding.  Body fat is essential for new mothers to be able to produce breast milk and balance hormones.  Adipose tissue is actually an endocrine organ that secretes estrogen!  Too many women are set on "blasting the dreaded baby fat" after birth, but I look at it another way.  I want to care for this carefully-curated tissue and let it serve its optimal purpose.  By stimulating my hips, thighs, and buttocks during dry brushing, I encourage more healthy blood and lymph flow to keep these tissues healthy and performing optimally.  Healthy, functional fat will kindly leave the body when it is no longer needed, as long we take good care of it. 

Cold Showering and Cold Plunging - Your skin is filled with tiny muscles around each hair follicle called arrector pili muscles.  These are the muscles responsible for giving you goosebumps and making your hair stand on end.  Living in constantly-temperate environments, though, makes these muscles and the skin on top of them weak.  One way to strengthen and tone your skin as a muscle is to take cold showers (or at least end your showers with a blast of cold water) or cold plunge regularly. Here is a lengthier explanation of some other benefits of cold plunging.  While some may say it's controversial during pregnancy, it's important just to exercise this practice within your own limits and abilities, though I can assure you that by taking a cold shower or quickly dipping in a cold pool you will not lower your core body temperature enough to harm you or your baby. I have experienced for myself that cold water immersion relieves muscle aches and boosts my mood!

Discomfort Relief, Meditation, and Intentionality - Whoa, that's a mouthful. But that's what I enjoy from White Pine Rising's moon nest oil. This is an excellent oil for anointing yourself during your cycle, and I've found it to be so enjoyable for pregnancy massage.  With its wildcrafted and organic oils of hemp seed, olive, sesame, mugwort, cannabis, yarrow, cramp bark, and red raspberry leaf, it has ALL THE THINGS that nurture a womb. It also has calming lavender, healing frankincense, stimulating ginger, comforting comfrey, and so much more. I enjoy incorporating this oil into my meditation practice by applying it over my womb and breasts as I recite my birthing affirmations and set intention for a new breastfeeding relationship. And on top of all its other benefits, this has been my perfume as of late and I always receive compliments on it. 

Nutrition

I would be remiss to leave diet out of a conversation about pregnancy skin care. This could be a separate post in itself, so I will leave it to the Weston Price Foundation to explain some healthy dietary considerations for beautiful skin, all of which are just as pertinent in pregnancy. "Skin Deep: Nutrition for the Skin."

Honorable Mention

Here are a few other products I've enjoyed using during pregnancy. I like this body oil by Badger for all-over slathering. When your body is expanding exponentially, you've got a lot more skin to cover! When I don't want to go through half of my bottles of precious hand-crafted oils for a foot massage or some dry legs, I use this. It's a pretty simple blend of sunflower, jojoba, rosehip, seabuckthorn, olive, and calendula, and it makes a great carrier for essential oils.  (Adding in a drop of peppermint oil is great for massaging swollen ankles!) A good quality coconut oil is another great all-over moisturizer and carrier oil for essential oils as well. Lastly, I enjoy a few cosmetics from Beautycounter. I use this blush stick as a blush and as a lip tint.  With a little mascara, I feel clean and "done up" for a date night and not loaded up on toxic chemicals. 

I receive no payment or kick-backs for these recommendations or endorsements. These are simply products I use, love, and recommend. 

"Furniture Free"...But Where Do You Sit?

"Furniture Free"...But Where Do You Sit?

Your furniture is a cast. Like liquid, over time we tend to take on the shape of our containers because many of our containers put us into the exact same shape. 

I'm going to assume that if you're reading this you're at least somewhat familiar with WHY someone would want to get rid of their couches and chairs to live a more movement-based lifestyle. If you're new to this concept entirely, I highly recommend you check out Katy Bowman's many books (specifically Don't Just Sit There), website (specifically blog posts like this one), and popular podcast Katy Says (specifically Episode 69: Natural Movement and Variability). We've heard the saying that "Sitting is the New Smoking," but it really boils down to HOW you sit, HOW MUCH you sit, and in WHAT RATIO to the other movements you do. Katy's goal is succinct and well-said: "Move more of you more often." That's where the furniture free lifestyle comes in. 

Let me say from the start that I'm literally about to show you pictures of my furniture. My house is not a barren wasteland of floor-sitting and squatting. Every person's interpretation of this message and application of these strategies will look different, so I hope you find some helpful options in here that make you say "I could do that!" That's my intention.

What Does "Furniture Free" Even Mean?

For me, I interpret the idea of "furniture free" to mean that I have freedom from my furniture.  My furniture does not dictate how I move (or how I am restricted in my movement), it is not the focal point of my life, and it does not invite sedentary behavior. You don't have to throw away your couch if you're able to NOT use your couch as much or use it differently. I am the type of person, though, who can't keep sweets and junk food in the house or I'll eat it ALL. So I decided I won't keep "junk food movement" in my house, either.  "Furniture free" also means freedom from the kind of social class structure that comes along with furnishing your house with the right brands, the right pieces. I don't need TWO dining sets even if I have two spaces where I could theoretically eat in my house. I am free to have empty spaces if I want to. I am free to let my home echo if I desire. I am free from the pressure to keep up appearances. 

The All-Important Question: But What if Company Comes Over?

On the junk-food and appeasing-others note, I have always abided by Katy's defense of this question. Just because I eat healthy (I'm a nutritional therapist, after all), that doesn't mean I concede to buy Doritos and Little Debbie's when company comes over if that's what they like. It's MY house. I'm not going to craft the health and wellbeing of my home around the few times I might have company who aren't fond of sitting on the floor. I know, I know, "But what about old people and grandparents who come over?"  Slow down. Just strategize, people. I'm not telling you that your great aunt has to sit on your floor, I'm saying that your entire house shouldn't have to rest on this issue, and whatever strategy you employ for making your home accessible to your less-mobile guests should be one that does not tempt and invite you to use it as "junk food." I have several pieces in my home that serve this purpose. 

It's not about having NO furniture...It's about having furniture that facilitates progress and forward trajectory in your life. 

Just because you have some furniture, that doesn't mean you can't be part of this movement-movement. Even though we got rid of our couch, we decided to get something comfy and temporary in anticipation of our new baby arriving in April.  I want to have a little nest-y place for nursing and relaxing, and for family to visit and hold the baby. I don't see this as a regression at all, it meets a specific desire for a specific purpose for a specific time, it does not merely fulfill a cultural requisite that we have an 8-seater Pottery Barn couch. 

With that, I thought I'd bring you on a little tour through some parts of our home and pieces of our furniture to see what we're sitting on and how we're transitioning to a more movement-based lifestyle. In addition to wanting more movement in my life, I also want to transition away from furniture treated with chemicals or made with eco-un-friendly synthetic materials. Not every single piece of furniture in our house is organic hand-carved fair-trade fairy-dust sprinkled perfect. It's a transition process, a fun journey, and an interesting collection of pieces. 

Just Through Here We Have The Dining Room...

I dove head-first into furniture freedom with our dining room. I sold our chairs and donated the table, and ended up finding a big gorgeous oversized oak coffee table through a local re-sale Facebook page. The table only cost me $145 and at the time I replaced all of the chairs with cotton chair cushions (which we still have and use--you can sort of see the stack back there next to the shelf) that were $11 apiece. Recently my big pregnant belly has not been comfortable on the cushions (trying to breathe normally and eat at a low table cross legged is NOT comfortable), so we got these little jute poufs from IKEA to give me a better elevated + firm surface. They're also stackable so people can be chair height if they want, or they can be stacked to use as a table. My sweet spot right now is one of these with one cushion on top. I'm still squatting below parallel each time, getting a good pelvic angle while sitting, and using my core to support myself as I sit. 

Adjacent to this little dining space we have a sit-in counter. I myself like to be able to visit with guests here while I make dinner--you know that comfortable kind of gathering in the kitchen that happens when friends and family come over? It's also a great workspace (when it's clean). 

Bar stools can be a great piece of furniture to KEEP if you already have them, or to add to your furniture. With no back, sitting on a stool requires you to actually use your back muscles to stay upright, making you less likely to slouch and slump. You can also use stools for a variety of positions. One of my favorites is to stand here to work here on my computer (like I am RIGHT now) with one leg up on top of the stool getting a nice deep hip stretch, then change sides every once in a while. I can also squat on them (and my daughter does this a lot, too), sit cross-legged, or use these as work spaces in other places throughout the house.  

 

Next We Have The Living Room...

This is a double papasan chair that will be my little newborn + mama nest when the baby arrives. I can sit cross-legged in it, I can lie in it or sit if I want to, and it's great for snuggles. It's NOT something I can sink into for three hours on end, and that's a good thing. We purchased it second-hand, and when it serves its temporary purpose in our life we will send it off to its third-hand owners. The pouf is a sweet little cotton stuffed foot-rest type deal that I got for $9 at a thrift store. I use it a bunch of different ways, sitting on it right-side-up, and also on its side. It makes a great back bolster for stretching out my back, and it goes with the rug, too, so...win-win.

This is another IKEA find. Yes, you can actually sit in it and lean back! It's made with natural fibers, it requires that parts of your body are engaged to sit in it, it's light and movable so wherever the company is or wherever I want to use it, I can take it there. I don't need to fully furnish every single room in our house for a gathering, but I have enough options spread throughout the house to call a counsel if I want to. 

This is my favorite chair! It's a handmade piece we got at a farmer's market when we lived in Washington. It folds up so it can be moved out of the way easily or put away, it sits the tailbone about 5 or 6 inches off the floor so it's a great squat getting in and out, and it's fully reclined so when you lean back you can just relax, but if you want to sit up to have a conversation or get work done, it requires you to engage your core. It's SO comfy with a sheepskin draped over it. I wish I just had five of these instead of ALL the other seats I just showed you. 
 

A versatile wooden bench. Its most recent use was actually as a table during my daughter's birthday party. It's untreated, easy to move, can be sat on in different ways or used for various surface needs, and will probably be featured in some MovNat exercises very soon!

You Can Move More in the Bathroom, Too!

Here's a change you can make without getting rid of anything. Get a Squatty Potty!

Squatty Potty stools ensure you get at least one good sustained squat throughout your day, and also that you're having easy strain-free healthy bowel movements.  They're also super helpful for toddlers using the toilet. You can order a Squatty Potty HERE

 

Our Sedentary-Safe Space

I could write an entire blog post about my process for upgrading our bed, but I won't. In short, we had a small budget and my primary concern was getting rid of our toxic flame-retardant treated mattress and cheap particle-board VOC-off-gassing frame.  We went with an 6" cotton futon mattress with a wool cover. Since wool has natural flame-retardant properties, they can be sold and marketed as "mattresses" without legally having to be treated with flame retardants. It's very firm, but we've had it for almost a year now and we really like it. The frame is a wooden futon frame that I treated myself with a home made beeswax and olive oil wood sealant, and it's much lower to the ground than most conventional beds (and eventually I'd like it even lower) which is great for our toddler who often sleeps in our bed, and for a new baby who will co-sleep with us. 

We generally do not use many pillows, but our collection has grown as my pregnant belly has grown! I recently purchased the large gray square cushions in the back (which are actually "floor cushions") so I have something to lean against when I'm up late at night nursing. When they're done being a temporary headboard, they'll be moved to another part of the house for floor seating. Nothing crazy expensive or exclusive, but I'm able to avoid synthetic fabrics and also meet specific needs--like pregnancy--with versatile things that can still serve me in a healthy way later on. 

More Movement Indoors

Here are a few more things we keep in the house for added movement, which I will be utterly grateful for after the baby arrives. We do have a full gym get-up in our out-building, but we keep a few other things around just to make movement more convenient and accessible to us inside. Namely our rowing machine, yoga mat, foam rollers, a couple kettle bells and resistance bands, a 2x4 for balance work, and a rock-climbing/grip-strength/pull-up board. I'm also excited to set our slack-line up in the back yard and do more balance and stability training when my core is ready for some recovery and postpartum strengthening.

Conclusion

So there you have it! ALL that furniture, and I still consider myself to be "furniture free." I hope that doesn't sound hypocritical, but INCLUSIVE. My furniture doesn't make me weak, my furniture doesn't contribute to a decline in my health from sitting too much or inhaling chemicals, my furniture doesn't define my status or success as a home-maker. And I think in general our house looks pretty "normal" for having company, hosting family, and entertaining guests.  These are all things we've acquired or transitioned to over the course of about two years, and we are still on that same trajectory.  You can make small, concerted, conscious efforts to curate your indoor environment, improve your health, and change your perspective, and they will all eventually add up. 

 

Wholly Chloe Q & A

Wholly Chloe Q & A

Welcome to the first installment of Wholly Chloe Q & A!

Since I am juggling quite a few writing and creative projects right now and ALSO anticipating the arrival of my second child, I needed a piece of writing that was fun and interactive and invigorating to help me feel accomplished and motivated to work on my other projects. Thank you for your great questions! While I wasn't able to address them all, I've gathered some ideas for answering them in the future. Enjoy!


"I would love to hear more about how you began your cold water practice." 

I learned about cold plunging and the benefits of cold exposure from an episode of my brother's podcast ReWild Yourself in an interview with Wim Hof [you can listen to the episode here]. I started practicing the Wim Hof Method which is a meditative breathing technique, then I started applying the breathing technique with progressively long cold showers and baths at my house. Wim Hof also has an app now called Inner Fire that explains the technique and has timers and charts to help you progressively ease in to your cold exposure, and there are workshops throughout the world on his method. He didn't invent this practice--it's ancient and ancestral--but he has systemized it and really brought it to the mainstream. www.wimhofmethod.com

"Wondering if you always get your meat and dairy locally? If so, how do you find these farms?"

The short answer to that is "no." I consider every choice I make for my health to be on a spectrum, and I simply try to make the best decision on the spectrum based on a number of factors. Sometimes the "local" claims can be misleading. I live in Texas, so there are lots of "local" farms around here raising their animals in conventional feed-lot styles. I'm more concerned with the quality of the meat than the proximity to the source (and that's where I am PERSONALLY, I am still progressing along a spectrum). As I understand the spectrum, I think the best possible quality source of protein would be to get wild meat from my local landscape myself--that is the most ecologically-minded choice, so even though that's not a part of my reality yet, I still recognize that as one end of the spectrum. From there it would be purchasing quality wild foods, then purchasing locally-raised grass-fed or pastured meat >> then purchasing grass fed or pastured meat from a store >> then an organic option. The lower end of the spectrum is purchasing conventional, treated, frozen meats, which are things that are no longer part of my own selection process. A few good ways to find local food sources: Go to your local farmer's market and meet the farmers.  You could also do some online searches in your area for a "co-op" which partners with local farms, or search for "meat markets" in your area, which might have partnerships with local farms. If you have a local health-food store, try perusing their bulletin boards by the exit, sometimes local farms or businesses will advertise there. There are also Facebook groups in almost every major metropolitan area where people want to discuss these kinds of things! I tend to search for "crunchy moms" type groups, and you'll find people asking about sources for raw milk, swapping pediatricians' names, and generally helping each other navigate the health market in their area. 

"How can I keep moving towards upgrading how we eat...if the rest of my tribe isn't coming along for the ride?" 

It's hard for me to answer this question since I have a supportive spouse who respects my opinions and decisions, and my child is young enough that my weird crunchiness is pretty baseline to her. However, as a nutritional therapist I work with clients who need to make changes and who often feel overwhelmed or frustrated by a complete lifestyle overhaul. Some people are ready to jump in and make drastic commitments, others are not. It's always best to remember that you HAVE to meet people where they are and be a positive encouragement. Strategize to help them along. Unhealthy habits are deeply ingrained and can take time to shift gears and reverse. I highly recommend taking Gretchen Rubin's quiz about The Four Tendencies  and find out what their tendency is. This will help you understand how they best implement new habits. They may need accountability, they may need a lot more information and expert advice before they can commit. I would start there. (And if they won't take it, you can read up on her work and generally figure out what tendency your spouse and family members are). She has several best-selling books and a great podcast, and she has also been interviewed on the ReWild Yourself podcast if you want to give a listen: Gretchen Rubin: Habits and the Power of Automated Decisions.

"How do you get [your three year old daughter] to meditate?"

I posted on Instagram recently a great picture of my daughter Penny really getting into a meditation. I hope this wasn't misleading! My toddler is not a little guru and I promise you that she is every bit a typical toddler as yours is. But she does know what meditation is, she will ask to do it, she knows the general gist of things. It's also not uncommon for me to use phrases like "Penny, be mindful of your feet," or "be mindful of where the edge is" instead of "be careful," so really our meditation time is "mindfulness" time. I want to teach her how to listen to her body. We also integrate this a lot into our food choices, discussing how certain foods make us feel after we eat them, and to consider what we last ate when we experience belly aches. That said, I don't think my 3-year old grasps the depths of meditation yet, I simply want to teach her how to set herself up to communicate with her body. Once she can do that, then we'll start communicating with consciousness.  She is really intrigued by burning incense, sage, and resins, so that's the fun part for her.  We set out some comfortable cushions, and I teach her how to sit and different ways to hold her hands. I teach her how to deep breathe, and then we sit quietly for 20 or 30 seconds to "listen to our hearts." The most important part of it is demonstration. I tell her what my body and my "heart" are telling me, and then she will take a turn, too. Sometimes her responses are silly or made-up, and sometimes they're genuine.  Sometimes we spend 15 or 20 minutes doing it together, and other times she's totally over it within 5 minutes. I think that modeling the practice and meeting your child where they are is the best place to start. 

"I would love to hear you thoughts on...marriage and sexuality after children." 

When I first had my daughter I really struggled with my new "role." I felt like I had to fully 100% embody being a mother while I was mothering, and then completely take that off in order to be a sexual woman, and then also morph into a professional when I went to work. It was overwhelming and made me feel sub-par at all the things I wanted to do in my life. What I have come to realize instead is to embrace and embody my femininity, to thrive in my feminine energy and return to it when I start to feel compartmentalized. Women are sexual and juicy and gorgeous, and also nurturing and motherly and tired and smelly. I have breastfed my daughter back to sleep mid love-making. It is more fulfilling--to me--to embrace all that is dear and important to me at once than it is to try to juggle and compartmentalize. We think that "having it all" is what we're after, but that's exhausting. I think being in harmony with it all is what I'm after.  In terms of marriage after children, it's hard to offer advice since every pairing is so uniquely different, but I think regularly checking in to see that you're both on the same page about how you want to run your household, how you want to speak to your children and spend your time, is vitally important. It's important to me that we model for our children that marriage is a partnership, that they see their parents serving and supporting each other, that dad folds laundry and mom takes out the trash because we're all caring for our household together. Our general agreement for our partnership is that during the time that my husband is "away at work," I am also "at home at work." When he gets home, our responsibilities are shared equally.
 

A Whimsical Homespun Birthday Party

A Whimsical Homespun Birthday Party

I marvel at some people and their ability to throw a good party--the excitement they feel over executing every detail. That is NOT me. 

In general, for a kids' birthday party you're supposed to choose the theme then pick out the matching invitations, the decorations, the plates and napkins. You have to rent a space large enough for a thousand kids, feed everyone, and give all the tiny guests adorable goodie bags. And let's not forget how generous and magnanimous toddlers are when one of them gets to open a colorful pile of presents and everyone else has to sit and watch. 

I was imagining that overflowing trash bag of half-eaten food, juiceboxes, tableware, wrapping paper, and streamers after a birthday party, and I just didn't want that in my life. I wanted my daughter to feel special and celebrated; I wanted my guests and my daughter's friends to feel welcomed and comfortable; I wanted to cut down on excess and waste, and I wanted to be true to our family's values. 

My daughter is a female toddler in America so naturally she is indoctrinated into the obsession with Elsa and "Frozen," and is enamored with Anna's special birthday celebration in "Frozen Fever" which looks like this...

Between the events of this little short film and the fact that she has BEEN to other kids' parties, the girl knows what's up and what's supposed to go down at her party. She knows there's supposed to be cake and candles and singing. You can imagine there's a entire "Frozen Fever" themed birthday party package, but I'm really not interested in having characters be central to our family celebrations OR in just purchasing a bunch of on-theme "stuff" for a party. I decided to go with the general colors and flowers and ideas of this storyline she likes so much and build something unique for her around that. Check it! 

I'd like to point out that the dollars spent in this photo ran me around $7 for the flowers and that's it. The "table cloth" is actually one of Penny's twin sized fitted sheets (they make great tablecloths that will STAY ON when you have kiddos at the table) and the table runner is the runner that we usually keep on top of her dresser in her bedroom. The banner with her name on it is from my baby shower when I was pregnant with Penny which we have lovingly kept (our hostess ordered it from Etsy). I think the mismatched floor cushions and tuffets give it a colorful and whimsical charm, plus are fun and accessible for all the kiddos of every size at the table.  (Our square cotton floor cushions were about $10 or $11 each at World Market when we got them. They go through the washing machine and everything). We also used our mismatched set of cloth napkins instead of paper--the more mis-match the more whimsy, right?

Now I promise I did actually test out a super-healthy alternative-flour literally-sweetened-with-beets cake recipe before Penny's party and it did NOT turn out well, so I had to go with Plan B and get a cake mix. There ARE awesome recipes out there so don't give up if you're set on a really good home made cake. If you're short on time or energy (or you're 32 weeks pregnant and you just can't even) this one is Pamela's Gluten Free Vanilla Cake (available at Whole Foods and on Thrive Market) and the frosting is an organic icing from  Dollop Gourmet (Whole Foods). I ended up stacking two cakes into two layers to make sure we had enough. Luckily that whole shabby chic see-through look is kind of IN with cakes right now, so I went super thin on the frosting. I actually mixed about half the frosting with some of the solid rich fatty coconut milk on the top of a can of organic full fat coconut milk, which helped to reduce some sugar and make it spread thin and easily without tearing the cake apart. Fresh flowers and greenery were perfect cake-topper material without any added icing or extra cost. 

I don't even HAVE enough little plates and silverware for large gatherings so I went the compostable route with some simple biodegradable paper products and some petroleum-free compostable spoons. Instead of a big to-do with food I had a little appetizer platter with cheeses, fruits, flax crackers, dates, dried peaches, nuts, etc, and some mason jars and glasses with water or seltzer. I find that for me personally when I take my daughter to events I'm constantly and silently dodging the sugar (the juice, the ice cream, the cake, the candies, the snacks). Water is fine. Water is great. You can just do water and all the kids will still have an awesome time, I promise. 

This is our entryway which is essentially just Penny's play room adjacent to the big dining room. It's already pretty colorful, but we hung up this festive fabric bunting for some party flare (my mother in law made this bunting for my as a decoration for my first classroom when I was a teacher, and we've since hung it in Penny's room. I've seen equally adorable and festive garlands made with just strips of different fabric tied onto a string. It's durable and reusable!) As our party activity and in keeping with the sunflower-y theme, we painted rocks and flower pots. I covered a coffee table and a long bench with paper for activity space and put an old sheet underneath to protect the floors. I wish I was introducing you to a sweet new kind of organic acrylic paint that comes in glass containers or something--nope. Not today. But we did make off with these terracotta pots for about $1.25 each which I'm happy with. We also gathered some rocks from outside for $0. Easy peasy. After the party the kids took their pots and rocks home with their own packet of seeds to plant as their "party favor." 

Another little key I want to mention is we kept our birthday party to about an hour and a half, and we're glad we did! (Trust me, the parents were, too). Grown-ups don't like kids' parties, and most kids (my kid) have a general limit on their sunny dispositions before calamity ensues. We painted and bopped along to The Beatles, we washed up, we had a snack, we sang and had cake, we played a bit, we were done. Originally we planned to have Penny's party at a park but the weather didn't cooperate, so a little hike would have been on our agenda, too.  The short duration made me extra glad to have spent little and wasted little in terms of "party supplies."  (Yes, those are some of Penny's original pieces hanging up in the background. They're $1,000 each if you want one.)

Lastly, we decided we didn't want to do gifts this year. The Holidays are bad enough trying to navigate a polite way of either declining gifts or trying to specify the kinds of gifts you'd like for your child to receive. It's just awkward and uncomfortable. We've been to plenty of parties with "your presence is your present" on the invite, and that's great, too.  I wanted to start some kind of tradition for Penny for her birthday, so we asked our guests to scour their couch cushions and cars and sidewalks for pennies. We had a jar for collecting them, and we'll count out the pennies and let Penny choose how she'd like to spend it. Next year I think we'll start the tradition much sooner and collect them throughout the whole year, then let her "cash in" on her birthday. I'm not anti-presents, I just want our traditions to be special, unique, meaningful, and sustainable--not frivolous or compulsory. 

(Baby pictures that you've never gotten around to hanging up make great birthday party decor, by the way.)

We had a great day celebrating our awesome little girl, and she felt SO honored and loved. There are a lot of ways to put together a celebration of our little ones and maintain our family values. If you're a crunchy mama, there are so many recipes and options for us and great examples out there. Lucky for us it's pretty "IN" right now, too. If you don't have furniture in your house, no biggie. No budget, no problem. Do the unconventional but very-YOU thing. Your children won't remember the paper decorations you bought or all the planning you did, they'll remember how they felt. They'll remember your traditions and your values as a family. And if YOU'RE stressed about your kid's party, it may be time to question some of it. It should feel nourishing to you. It should feel aligned with your core values. It should make you feel good. Most of what we're sold and told as moms makes us feel pretty terrible--we don't need to welcome any of that into our lives. 

Do what makes you feel like this. 

Acorn Flour: An Amateur's Ecology Experiment

Acorn Flour: An Amateur's Ecology Experiment

As much as acorns are ubiquitous in our environment, they are also undervalued and misunderstood.

Until recently, my only physical interaction with acorns had been using the caps between my thumbs as whistles when I was a kid, and sweeping them out of my driveway as an adult. This fall, I learned from my brother and mentor Daniel Vitalis that these are truly valuable, nutritious, and easily accessible wild foods! (You can listen to Daniel Vitalis, Frank Giglio, and Arthur Haines talk about acorn processing in Episode #119 of the ReWild Yourself Podcast). As someone interested in expanding my foraging and plant knowledge skills, and as someone generally down to experiment with weird stuff, I decided I would undertake the challenge to take some acorns through the process from nut to nosh. 

Let me remind you that even though you may see me on Instagram foraging mushrooms in the forest, making wild nettle pesto, and being generally crunchy, I live in basically-downtown San Antonio, Texas. I drive a tiny little Mazda mini-van and I have a Costco membership. I am not an ultra-cool off-grid ultimate-forager mom (yet). I say this first and foremost to admit my utter lack of expertise, but also so that you realize you have access to all of what I'm about to talk about.  If somewhere in the middle of this (maybe you'll even read this to the end) you think "I'd like to try that..." you can and you should, even if for no other reason than the fact that there are delicious pancakes waiting on the other side. 

You must first know that I went about this process in some of the absolute LEAST efficient ways possible, but that was part of my strategy. I'm a huge fan of Katy Bowman, and what I've learned from her books and podcasts and amazing brain is that where there is convenience, there is some cost being shouldered elsewhere. I've made a point in my lifestyle to start questioning these conveniences and start reversing my sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to take this opportunity to use as much ME-POWER as possible and truly appreciate this relationship to my food. I wanted to fully learn this process through trial and error, much the same way we learn to do math long-hand before we allow ourselves to rely on calculators. (Hey, remember when we used to use MAPS for directions? Crazy.) You can rest assured there are gadgets and tricks and hacks for processing acorn flour, but that's not part of this story.

I also got something out of this I wasn't expecting, and that's an important life lesson for my daughter. My little girl worked SO hard for the reward at the end of this process. She tended DAILY to the various steps and tasks; she was engrossed and engaged and enlightened. She was present for it, even when I was caught up in tunnel-vision toward the end result. My point is that we often think "working for something" means doing enough work to make enough money to save up for the thing we want and then buying it. Yeah, there's virtue in that somewhere but only from the perspective of society and consumerism and the value of money. I didn't set out to teach (or learn) this lesson, but it arrived to us through this process. The work we did with our own bodies directly correlated to the outcome.  I'll never hear the phrase "work for what you want" the same way again.

GATHERING

My three-year old daughter and I spent several hours over about two days gathering up acorns. That process in and of itself offered ample opportunities for quality movement: Sustained, engaged squatting, squat-crawling and pivoting, and various seated positions. It was also a great example of what Katy Bowman has coined "stacking," which is where one activity in itself is able to serve many purposes and values. Over these hours together we: spent time outside in the sunshine; we spent quality time together; we moved a lot; we talked a lot; we learned about how to identify a good acorn vs. a bad acorn; we used fine motor and dexterity skills; we practiced counting; we collaborated; we observed trends and patterns in our environment and in our processing. It was a productive learning experience that cost $0. (Hey moms, you're welcome.)

SORTING

Once you start gathering you'll notice a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and abnormalities in the acorns. You'll want to leave behind any acorns with tiny little holes that look like someone has used a tiny drill bit on it. These are the little escape hatches of weevils, which are laid inside and then eat their way out (more on those later). Also toss aside any acorns with cracks or discolorations like these. 

Acorns will look different depending on where you live and what species you're gathering. This particular species is a quercus virginiana, or a Southern Live Oak, and they're EVERYWHERE in Texas. We gathered all our acorns from within 300 feet of our front door. As we gathered, we noticed that the healthy acorns tended to be dense and heavy, darkly colored, and nice and glossy. Like the Pantene-ProV commercial of acorns.

If the acorns are still spongy and moist from gathering, they won't crack well--they sort of just splice open. Much like trying to break a green, living branch. They're much easier to crack when they're a little drier. We filled up some baking sheets one-acorn deep and let them hang out in the sun for a couple of days to dry out so they'd be easier to crack.  This is an important (and longer) process if you're going to be storing your acorns whole (which you can do for up to three years). Consult the experts on that process, but once they're completely dried, you can store them for making flour throughout the year. Because of its high fat content, acorn flour does not itself preserve very well and can go rancid, so as I understand it's best to store the acorns whole and make & use flour as needed.

WEEVILS

After bringing all these beautiful acorns into the house and giving them a nice warm place to rest, apparently all the weevils living inside felt quite welcomed and thus emerged to greet us. I was sipping my coffee in the kitchen one morning when my daughter called from the next room "Mom, the yellow worms are being so silly!" Kids say weird things sometimes, especially my kid, but there was sincerity instead of playful imagination in her voice. Sure enough there were weevils all over the acorns, on the floor, and in her hands. Weevils crawling a 2-foot radius around all of the pans of acorns. Don't panic, they're harmless (and actually nutritious themselves) and easy to sweep up with broom and dustpan. I was still shocked. I thought I had avoided this by only keeping acorns without holes!

Weevils' eggs are laid inside the acorn through an opening that is pretty much undetectable. As the weevil hatches and grows inside the acorn, it eats the acorn flesh and then burrows itself out (once it's nice and fat and warm in your living room). The holes in the acorns show that a weevil WAS inside, not that it IS CURRENTLY inside. I took this learning experience in earnest and set to forging through and not abandoning the project, and I'm glad I did. I texted this picture to my brother Daniel in a panic thinking I would have to throw everything out (and burn my house down), but he was totally unfazed--just a normal part of the process. I sat back down to my pans of acorns and started sorting. I threw out all of the newly-evacuated weevil-houses first. Then I set about feeling and listening to each acorn on the hard wood floor. Some felt light and sounded higher in pitch on the floor--obviously less dense inside and rather hollow; eaten away by a weevil who hadn't decided to show himself yet. Others were dense, heavy, and bass-sounding on the floor. These sounded right, so I tossed them into the "keep" pile.

A LESSON IN FOOD PURITY

The most important realization for me here was the sterility of my food sourcing. Bugs, worms, parasites--these are are completely normal parts of gathering and processing food, we just don't SEE it. When we arrive to the grocery store, all of the weirdly-shaped, bug-bitten, imperfect foods have already undergone this process. SOMEONE ELSE IS ALREADY DOING THIS WORK ON YOUR FOOD FOR YOU. If someONE isn't doing this work, then someTHING like a chemical pesticide or a toxic wash is doing it for you. I was surprised to learn from the podcast with Daniel, Frank, and Arthur how many fresh wild fish are infested with parasites, and that most of the fish at your store was, too, at some point. They were simply removed before being cut into filets, shrink-wrapped, and neatly arranged on the ice tray at Whole Foods. I was humbled by the fact that I have the "skill" of picking out a good avocado by feeling it or a good watermelon by knocking on the rind, but I didn't know how to identify and interact with the wild foods that were sitting outside on my own lawn. Think about that for a second.

So if you make it this far, don't stop for the weevils. Just let them pass through, they're part of the journey. Learn from it. (And if you're totally unsure whether there's a "prize" inside, just crack it open and find out!)

CRACKING

We went the old-fashioned way with this and cracked the acorns by hand with typical metal nut-crackers (which were SURPRISINGLY hard to find; I had to go to three stores to find their last two sets). It took a few sessions of cracking to "get good" at it and be efficient. My husband and I found that it was most efficient to crack about 20 acorns in half, then pick out the flesh rather than crack and pick out each individual acorn. My daughter would recommend going old school and just using your teeth if your hands aren't big enough for the nut crackers...

LEACHING

This is part of the process that I did completely backwards because I'm an admitted amateur. If you're going to make acorn flour, you'll want to go on to the grinding process next and THEN leach the flour. My mistake was researching "how to cold-leach acorns" instead of "how to cold-leach acorn flour" which are two similar process but for different purposes. In my case it didn't seem to change much, but I want to note that I haven't seen a tutorial for making acorn flour that recommends the leaching before the grinding. This is a blog about my experience not my expertise--so here's a good professional tutorial for leaching acorn flour you can refer to. (And if that's all you came for, scroll to the end for the recipe I used and be on your way!)

I think the most common comment I got in posting about my foray into acorn flour was "BE CAREFUL, ACORNS ARE POISONOUS! THEY'RE TOXIC! DON'T EAT THEM!" 

First of all, no they're not. Slow your roll. Far from being toxic (What does that word even really mean, anyway? Can we quantify that a bit?) acorns are just high in anti-nutrients called "tannins" which give them their bitter flavor. For the same reason we soak beans, rice, and legumes to dissolve and ferment anti-nutrients like phytates, acorns are soaked and rinsed repeatedly to leach and remove the tannins. It's very simple whether you're leaching the acorns whole or as a flour: cover with cold filtered water, wait several hours, pour the water off, rinse the acorns, and fill the vessel back up with water again. As I understand, each species takes a different amount of time for the tannins to be removed, and the best way to know is a taste test. Once they're adequately leached, you won't be able to taste any bitterness at all, and the water will be mostly clear. Since I did three separate batches of acorns, they were each started on different days and I was able to clearly see & taste when they were ready. Here is a pour off of the water from 1, 2, and 3 days of cold leaching:

DRYING and GRINDING

Again, my process is a bit out of order and out of whack (although it still yielded the same result). I'm sure an expert can explain the difference, and I do intend to seek out that information. Just know that the pros will tell you to crack, grind, leach, and then dry the acorn flour. I ended up cracking, leaching, drying, and grinding mine. 

To dry, I followed instructions for what must just be for leaching and preserving the whole acorns for other purposes other than flour. I laid the leached and pat-dried acorns on a pan and put them in the oven on it's lowest setting (150 degrees) for a couple of hours, checking on them frequently, agitating them, and biting through some of the bigger ones to make sure they were dried through the centers.

Once they were dry, we stone ground the acorns by hand in some Southwestern molcajetes.  I'll be honest, this part was not as fun for me, but I still reveled in the purpose and the learning experience of it. It was the LAST step before reaping our reward. For almost two weeks my daughter had been asking nearly every morning for acorn pancakes, and each time I would explain the next step and the rest of the tasks required before these promised pancakes would be ready. She was glad to help with every step of the process, but three-year olds don't QUITE have the elbow grease for grinding flour by hand. At least not 21st century three year olds...

Once the flour was ground, we ran it through a sieve to remove any leftover chunky pieces (which I'm glad we did but was also disappointed in my hand-griding skills to have about 1/4 cup of these bits to re-grind afterward).

TIME FOR PANCAKES

Even after the weevils and the mis-matched processing, we were sufficiently rewarded for our efforts! I perused and compiled various acorn flour pancake recipes into one that turned out excellent for us. You'll find many variations out there. Acorn flour is incredibly lipid-rich, over 50% fat (yum!) and free of gluten, which means it doesn't hold together very well on its own. Most recipes will "cut" the acorn flour with white flour (no, thanks) or some other kind of traditional flour on order to help hold them together. I took Chef Franky's suggestion and cut mine 1:1 with sprouted spelt flour.  A lot of other recipes were calling for milk and vegetable oil, which I also wasn't crazy about. I figured if I used some organic canned full fat coconut milk I could hit two birds with one stone on that one. My brother Daniel uses Surthrival colostrum powder as a binder in his pancakes which sounds delicious, too. 

Wholly Chloe's Acorn Flour Pancakes

1 cup acorn flour

1 cup sprouted spelt flour

2 pastured eggs

1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt

1/4 tsp baking powder 

1/2 cup Organic canned full fat coconut milk - or enough to create desired consistency. 

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Raw Honey to taste

This recipe yields about 8-10 pancakes which you can and should lovingly slather with pastured butter and mineral-rich maple syrup. These pancakes are out of this world. They have a mild and pleasant nutty flavor, and because of the higher fat content in the acorn flour PLUS the healthy fat from the coconut milk, they're incredibly filling and will not leave you with the carb-hangover you get from your standard paper-carb pancakes. I was nervous that they wouldn't live up to my expectations after all the work that went into them, but instead they inspired me to START AGAIN and MAKE MORE!

NOW WHAT?

So I'm sure many of you are thinking "Good for you, lady, but I'm under two feet of snow right now and my acorn-processing opportunities are over for the year." True. Sorry about that. No more pictures of pancakes. But what you CAN do is start strategizing for next year. Do you know how to identify an oak tree? Do you know what species grows near you and where to find a few? When do the acorns ripen in your area, and what pests are they prone to? You have some time to start learning and strategizing for next year. I know Daniel will be covering a lot more of this process next year on his podcast, so keep up to date with the ReWild Yourself Podcast. Until then, I hope as you've read this you've found opportunity all around you for more movement, interaction with your ecology, connection to your food sources, and lessons for your kids. 

 

Additional Resources:

Do Sweet Acorns Still Need to Be Leached? - Arthur Haines

The Incredible Edible Acorn - Arthur Haines 

The Mindful Mama's Baby Wishlist

The Mindful Mama's Baby Wishlist

The second time's a charm

With our second baby (a boy!) arriving some time in early April, we've been around the block once now and I know what I DO and DON'T want in preparation for another newborn.  With my daughter, I fell for a lot of the typical "YOU WON'T SURVIVE WITHOUT A WIPES WARMER" type scare tactics aimed at new moms.  Trust me, you don't need a wipes warmer (girl, you don't even really need wipes). So this post will serve as both my personal registry and wish list, as well as a guide for moms out there who might be looking for alternatives to the Toys R' Us catalog recommendations or to anyone looking for a gift for the eco-friendly health-conscious moms in their lives. 

Before I start listing out products and brands I've been ogling, let me talk about a key principle: HAND-ME-DOWNS ARE AWESOME - Don't turn them away.  I know we all want the shiny new things but not only is second-hand extremely practical (since babies wee and spit and poo on everything.  Every. Thing.), they are also quite a bit healthier if they're coming from a good home.  First off, they've off-gassed and out-washed their industrial chemicals, so even if it's not organic fair trade unicorn cotton, it's actually much cleaner and gentler for baby.  It's also less impactful on the environment.  I could go on a rant about "fast fashion" and how it's affected my choices for my personal wardrobe, but children go through clothing and shoes at an EXPONENTIAL rate--it's "even-faster fashion." For this reason, you won't find much in the way of clothing and shoes on my list. I'm planning on going mostly second-hand in that department. Same goes for baby items like swings and carriers and play mats and toys.  It's so much STUFF that has to go SOMEWHERE when you're done with it.  Buying new can have its perks, but I would be happy with pretty much any of the items I'm about to list coming to me second-hand.  This also makes the case for buying really quality items if you choose to buy new, so that they're still in good condition for another baby or to pass on to the next family when you're finished with them. Keep the lifelong impact of your purchases and choices in mind from the beginning. 

That said, here are the items we hope to integrate into our home as we settle our nest for another baby, as well as a donation opportunity in lieu of a gift. 


FOR SLEEPING

When I was pregnant with my daughter, we had a crib fully assembled and made up before she was even born, as most moms do.  After she was born I quickly tapped into my crunchy-mommy instinct and decided I didn't want her sleeping in a separate room from me (she slept ON TOP OF ME for at least a week if I remember). Number of nights my child has slept in a crib in the past three years: 0.  So we are in 0 need of a crib or any of the accompanying crib accoutrements.  I'm looking for co-sleeping, bed-sharing, and portable outdoor-friendly sleeping solutions.

  • A Moses Basket

I've been following @theyoungfolkcollective and @cubandco_ on Instagram for a while and not only do I love the style of their moses baskets, but they're a sustainable, eco-friendly, and ethically-made brands. I'm partial to the Au Naturel and Raw moses baskets from The Young Folk Collective, but they have an array of beautiful colors (and diaper bags, too!). I also love the Safari moses basket from Cub and Co.

Moses baskets from Young Folk Collective

And what a great item for a hand-me-down, a family heirloom, or a fun toy for the kids when they're older, or a farmer's market tote! And these kinds of items are REPAIRABLE so if some weaving is coming apart or a handle is loose after years of love, you can fix it instead of replacing it entirely.

  •  A Co-Sleeper and Bed Sharing Nest

Another Insta-mom-friend I've followed for nearly two years now is @lovebirdbabynests.  I've loved seeing her small-scale home business grow into something amazing! She hand-sews (and customizes) "baby nests" for safe and cozy co-sleeping, and I also envision them as great for camping, fitting into a moses basket, laying next to me in a restaurant booth, or putting on my lap on the plane when we travel this spring for my brother in law's wedding. Aren't these just adorable?!

Another reason I like these is it offers options for varied positions as opposed to the C-shape babies are often left to rest in. The majority of newborns spend a significant amount of time in their little carseat carriers (that also transfer to strollers) and their sleeper swings, which keeps them in a constant spinal C-shaped curve not optimal for development.  In my view, the carseat is really a safety device meant for the one specific event of riding in the car, not for resting or other activities.  I could put a baby nest like this into our little wagon and jaunt across the block to the park or the coffee shop just as easily and conveniently as a carrier and stroller.

Any mom knows that those 2am marathon nursing sessions leave us scrolling Instagram and Pinterest for....well, a while.  BellyArmor makes an array of products (some with organic materials) designed to shield pregnant bellies, babies, even scrotums! from the effects of radiation.  In addition to cutting down on your own wi-fi exposure in the home, you can drape this blanket over belly or babe and cut down radiation by 99.9%.  Want!

  • A Baby Swing...

...but not just any swing.  Really and truly I don't want another hunk of plastic in my house, or one that plays lullabies or has flashing lights.  And have you SEEN the price tag on some of the trendy-looking natural baby swings?...$500 to just put my baby down for a bit to take a nap or let me get dressed? No. An affordable option, ethical and sustainable materials and work ethic, and an actual SWING? Yes. I would like this La Siesta organic baby hammock. Not only is it made of organic materials, it's just so much PRETTIER than the conventional baby swings on the market, and it's only $79.  Call me vain but I don't particularly like it when every room of my house has some kind of garish primary-colored kid contraption that clashes with my style and decor.  This is so functional and clean-looking.  It holds up to 44lbs of weight and my three-year old doesn't even weigh that, so it'll last us a while.  If you aren't able to hang one from the ceiling you can also purchase (or make) a wooden frame like the one pictured here. 

FOR NURSING

  • Books

Speaking of those late night thumb-twiddling nursing sessions that last forever, here's an excellent book I recommend for all women and moms: Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation by Katy Bowman.  (Ok, this is one I do already have--sort of, I've lent it out a few times and I can't put my finger on it.) Keep it on hand for a few pages here and there while you're nursing.  It's a fun, practical, and informative read all about how your LIFESTYLE and the way you sit, stand, walk, and move affects that abdominal separation many of us experience after pregnancy.  It includes a ton of simple and gentle recovery exercises you can do almost anywhere.  A gift within a gift is that it will introduce the mom in your life to the amazing work of Katy Bowman (who is a personal role model...ok, "hero"...to me) and her many books, popular podcast "Katy Says," and her newly-available online classes.  You can purchase her many books and class subscriptions at www.nutritiousmovement.com and follow her @nutritiousmovement on Instagram. 

Any good book is a great gift to pair with nursing supplies for new moms. Nursing can be the ONLY time we have to sit down undisturbed and read for a while.  I have fond memories of reading my own books aloud to Penelope when she was a newborn, and she would fall asleep to the sound of my voice.  My all-time favorite parenting book that I will read again when baby arrives is The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff which I highly recommend.  A few others on my want-to-read list right now are Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Mindsight by Dan Siegel.

  • Organic Cotton Reusable/Washable Nursing Pads

Milk boobs leak, everyone.  In case you didn't know.  The last thing I want is a repeat of the crinkly, plastic-y, sweaty disposables I used the last time around.  Companies like Glad Rags and Etsy stores like ECOMOONPAD make cotton or wool organic + washable + reusable + breathable nursing pads, as well as menstrual pads for the after-birth phase. (Companies like Charlie Banana also make sets of nursing pads, post partum pads, and cloth diapers--because those are on the list down the line here, too.)

(And a tip for new moms, you can create your own soothing gels with aloe and essential oils, apply to your pads and nursing pads, and then put them in the fridge or freezer.  Sweet, sweet relief. They're called "padsicles." You're welcome.)

  • Nursing Bras and Clothing

If you're purchasing a nursing bra for yourself or a mom in your life, look for some organic materials (although a lot of nursing bras will have a small amount of synthetic blend to help it stretch), and find something without an underwire or wires to hold up the sides, since these can interrupt the lymph and milk ducts in the breasts which is painful and potentially harmful. I like the bras from Pansy and Blue Canoe, and the tank and cami tops from Pact Apparel (available online and at Whole Foods and other health food stores).  You know what? I loved my nursing bra hand-me-downs from friends, too!

  • Nursing Covers and Scarves

I'm one of the moms who falls right in the middle of that choice between public vs. private breastfeeding.  Don't get me wrong, I'll feed my baby whenever and wherever I want to, but as much as I love some good naked outdoor time I'm not dead-set on flashing strangers in the park. I like to wear a scarf or a sweater or a blanket over my shoulder in the same way you might wear headphones at the gym--it says "excuse me, I'm busy, please leave me alone" when I don't want to be disturbed (because often baby is going to want to sleep afterward, too). I like breathable organic materials--think San Antonio in spring and summer--and prints that I will actually wear, like THIS, THIS, and THIS.  Almost any light and breathable swaddling blanket or wrap will do just fine, too, by tying two corners together and putting it around my neck. Tread lightly when you visit spearmintlove.com because their adorable patterns will break your internet. I can't even pick one (or 4). 

  • Baby Bottles

I love my Medela breast pump that I got when I had my daughter, and it was an amazing piece of machinery when I was still working full time.  Now that I work from home, it won't be much of an issue, and I still have all the parts and bells and whistles leftover from that set.  For the occasions when I'm not able to nurse, I'd love about 3 of these glass and silicone baby bottles from Lifefactory.

FOR BABY CARE

As much as we are all trying to be cognizant of what we're putting on our adult skin and hair, babies' skin is even more delicate (and perfect!).  Washing gently with water is pretty much all that perfect newly-vernixed probiotic-infused skin needs.  I take the "less is more" approach, so I'm looking for products that are effective and convenient with minimal ingredients.

This is a diaper cream, a rash and cradle cap treatment, a nipple salve, and pretty much any other kind of skin soother baby (or mom) could need. Living Libations is one of the highest quality skincare lines out there.  A mom herself, she's blended all organic and/or wild-harvested ingredients like seabuckthorn, jojoba, calendula, chamomile, sandalwood, and beeswax. Take it one step further and get THIS Living Libations baby bundle with the balm, shampoo, baby oil, and organic hemp washcloth. 

  • Wash With Water bath products

As I said before, our babies' skin is so plump and luscious and healthy, we really need to just leave it alone.  But sometimes they spit up on themselves, or blow out up the back of their jammies, or get into any assortment of situations where they don't have that fresh-from-the-oven baby smell.  For the occasion of bathing and shampooing with a gentle cleanser, I like Wash With Water.  While a lot of other "natural" products out there are still technically "safe," they still contain ingredients like surfactants and glycerin which is damaging and dehydrating to the skin. This one keeps it clean to a higher standard than a lot of brands you find in the store. (They're also on Instagram @washwithwater). 

  • Bath Water Filter

While we're on the topics of bathing and healthy practices for the skin, let's talk about the water we're bathing in.  We're careful to filter the tap water that we drink to remove chemicals, sediments, even traces of pharmaceuticals in the water, but we don't always filter the water that comes into contact with our skin.  When we bathe in water, that has direct access to our blood stream because it isn't subjected to the natural filtration system of digestion.  It's just skin-to-bloodstream.  There are lots of options out there for shower filters to filter out chlorine, industrial chemicals, and other yuck-stuff from our tap water, but not a lot of options for bath water. Here's a $50 solution: a bath ball filter from Crystal Quest.  They have a lot of options and products for your home.  I also love and recommend everything Berkey.

 

  • Diapers and Wipes

While we're on the topic of water and baby skin, let's talk about wipes.  First of all, wipes are kind of overrated as a "necessity."  After going through an entire diaper phase with one child already, I wish I hadn't spent so much money on wipes.  I also know a lot of moms who go through the struggle of finding the "right wipes" for their baby, as in which ones DON'T cause a blistering rash or an allergic reaction. How 'bout we just avoid that altogether.  My strategy this time around will be to make most of my at-home wipes myself using a recipe like THIS one from Earth Mama Angel Baby.  I'm going to choose to see wipes as a convenience item instead, and try to limit using them to when we're actually out of the house or when I'm unable to make them myself. (And what's to "make" really? Most moms on the block will tell you we've used a wet washcloth in a pinch and everything is FINE. Let's do that more.) I really like Water Wipes which you can still find at most stores with a health-food section, and even Target carries them in bulk. Once you realize you're PAYING for a wipe that's mostly water though, you'll appreciate them more as a convenience item anyway.  

On the diaper front, I know everyone's expecting me to cloth diaper my baby, and I promise I thought long and hard about it. Where we're living right now, we have one of those tiny washer and dryer sets that stacks on top of each other in a closet, and I am feeling like the stress of exclusive cloth diapering might be more than I can manage until we purchase a new washer and dryer. I am opting for the convenience route here for the time being.  What I did often with my daughter is use cloth diapers while we were home (and after she'd had her dutiful morning poop) and then used disposable while we were out and about.  Balance, compromise, call it what you will.  I'll call it "strategy."  I would love THIS set, or something like it, with just six cloth diapers I can use intermittently (if you have a Thrive Market account, you save 25%). My general rule for disposable diapers is no chlorine, no fragrances, no other chemical treatments.  I'm not going to try to get much pickier than that.  Brands that fit this criteria and are also easy to find locally are Seventh Generation,  Honest Company, Earth's Best, and Babyganics. I could do an entire blog post on diapers (I won't) but you can do your own digging into each of these brands and see which ones resonate with your lifestyle and values as a company.

FOR TRAVEL

  • A Backpack ("Diaper Bag")

This time around I really don't want a typical "diaper bag." I have a nice black one already (that actually doubles as my "dress up purse." #momlife) but I quit using it daily because it was really throwing me off trying to carry a baby and a bag and probably three other things while my diaper bag slowly slides off my shoulder.  With two in tow, I really want a nice backpack.  I've hijacked my husband's hiking backpack as my daily carry-all bag which has been useful, but I do sort of always look like I'm either going to class or going hiking. 

I love these ethical and sustainable bags by Kanken. They're durable + stylish and most of all just really functional.  I have my eye on THIS one, THIS one, and THIS one, all of which could easily be adjustable and interchangeable between my husband and I. And I like having a pocket or two on the outside of my bag so when my daughter inevitably makes me carry the most special rock she's ever found, or hands me a wad of used tissue while we're on a walk, I have a quick easy pocket to reach without taking my bag off.  And in the spirit of making things easier on mom, they also make these equally-awesome and adorable mini backpacks for kids because it's time for my kid to start carrying her OWN stuff!

I'm adoring these recycled faux-leather (and so reasonably-priced!) backpacks from Matt and Nat. Can you even BELIEVE these are made from recycled plastic bottles? Imagine how easy wiping spit and handprints off these would be...  (You can read more about their ethics and sustainability HERE and follow them @matt_and_nat on Instagram). These come in some fresh colors, too. Yeah, I'm a crunchy mom and I'm cool with healthy choices that aren't always the most fashionable, but have MERCY if a mom doesn't want to look and feel sleek and stylish for just a day in her life.  I mean MY life. 

  • A Buggy Board Stroller Attachment

I know, I know, parents of two always pine for the double stroller.  However, I do not want a huge stroller that doesn't fit through a door, I don't want another device, I don't even want to be using a stroller that much.  Solution? At www.buggyboard.info you can purchase this great little attachment for your toddler-aged kiddos to ride on while you push the stroller.  They have attachment kits for 99% of the strollers on the market.  It saves the bulk of the extra seat and also gives your bigger kids freedom to get on and off during walks as they please.  Not super ethical or sustainable, but the way I see it I'm wasting less by not ditching the TWO strollers we currently have to invest in a new one.  Seriously, how COOL are these?  (Also available at Target).

 

FOR MOM

There's a lot moms need after birth to recover, relax, and restore after childbirth. Along with your physical in-person support and all you do to help out, here are some thoughtful and helpful gift ideas for the recovering new mom in your life. 

  • Living Libations Yoni Serums

Don't worry, you don't actually have to say the word "yoni" out loud if you don't want to, but you can't ignore the fact that a mom's lady business needs some extra care and attention before and especially after birth. Living Libations has some excellent serums for both jobs, with the highest quality botanical ingredients.  Especially if you're a mom gifting to another mom with an "oh, honey, I've been there" tone in your baby shower card, these are perfect

  • Feather Eagle Sky Love Oil

Soothe momma's life-giving belly and boobs with a top-notch body oil. I'm so happy to personally know Jessika LeCorre and to have used virtually every single one of the amazing products she creates (she's @feathereaglesky on Instagram). A gorgeous mother to three, this woman knows beauty and self-care (um, would you LOOK at her?). Her "Love" oil has anti-inflammatory energizing ginger that promotes circulation, cardamom to stimulate lymph and blood flow, sweet almond oil for skin hydration, analgesic and calming lavender, and yummy vanilla. Basically the perfect recipe for rejuvenating a new mom. 

On that note, gifting mom a post-partum massage, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment, a haircut, or other service is another thing I know all moms WANT but we are much too busy being nurturing and selfless to ask for it. 

  • FOOD: Home-Cooked or Dinner To-Go

Any new mom will tell you what a LIFE SAVER it is when friends and family come by to bring a nourishing home-cooked meal.  I still remember receiving salmon and risotto, eggplant parmesan, hearty salads, and delicious casseroles in those first days when all I could do (and needed to do) was rest.  If you're gifting to a crunchy mom and you're like "What do I even make?" and you're Googling "What is gluten?" or you're just too far away to personally deliver a hot meal, then a meal-by-mail option could work! I have personally tried the boxed meal subscriptions like Hello Fresh and found them to be wasteful, low-quality ingredients, and still requires the effort to cook the meal itself. There's a list HERE with 13 Paleo-friendly meal delivery services, and there are more out there if you search!  Another option is to look for freshly-prepared meals from restaurants and grocery stores in your area. For example, San Antonio has places like MY FIT FOODS which prepares healthy grab-and-go meals, or Jugo Juicery which has freshly-pressed organic juices, acai bowls, and healthy snacks (plus they have massage services *elbow, elbow*). Grocery stores like Whole Foods and Central Market have lots of prepared foods and grab-and-go options as well, and it's very easy now to gift someone an eGiftCard so they can get pop into Whole Foods for a delicious and healthy pre-made meal. 
 

TOO CUTE NOT TO MENTION

  • Baby Moccasins

I don't think my daughter actually put shoes on until she was about 5 or 6 months old and even then they weren't really necessary, so I recommend getting baby shoes in the 6-month range at the earliest (again, hand-me-downs!). I love anything from Soft Star Shoes (@softstarshoes), and they have selections for everyone in the family from newborns to adults.  I like THESE monogrammed moccasins (our little boy's initials will probably be GAP, which I am just now realizing this very second and wondering if we should reconsider...).  Freshly Picked (@freshlypicked) has some squee-worthy leather moccasins as well, like THESE and THESE. You can find some affordable moccasins for $12.99 in every color imaginable at Jane.com, too (@veryjane). All really cute ways to let those developing baby feet move and groove naturally.

  • Baby Clothing and Toys

This is one of those things everyone sees and just lovingly WANTS to buy for a new baby.  Especially you grandmothers.  You can't help yourselves.  As I've said before I'm SO happy with hand me downs, even if second hand items are purchased for us and given at a shower or as a gift. No shame in that! In general my personal preference is to purchase eco-friendly, sustainable, and healthy products if I (or you) buy new, and I also prefer not to dress my kiddos in clothing with really gendered or weird slogans and phrases on them.  I'm sorry if it was you, but when my daughter was born I donated away a bag of perfectly good clothing that said things like "Diva" and "Born for the Catwalk" and things like that. Same goes for absurdly-large brand logos that turn my baby into a little billboard.  It can sound picky and ungrateful, but it's better than secretly giving things away behind someone's back. (If you're a mom receiving some so-brand-new-they're-stiff clothing that smells like a perfumed department store, a few good washes and laying the clothing out in the sun over a few days can help clean them up a bit.)

A few brands I like and have some ADORABLE clothes are Colored Organics, Two Birdees, Burt's Bees which now has organic clothing at Whole Foods. (There are so many more brands out there--you can google "organic made in US baby clothing" and see what pops up.) We especially love any of those little sleep-sacks that looks like little dresses--they last a long time and are so convenient and useful.


In lieu of a gift--some of these items are rather costly--we also highly value donations to other families in need around the world.  I want to live a healthy lifestyle, I want to bring awareness and support slow fashion and healthy parenting practices and all that, but I also see other mothers who have nothing but their own arms to offer their children.  We have all the resources we need to provide a healthy life for our new baby. If you would like to make a donation to aid fleeing families in Aleppo, please visit https://preemptivelove.nationbuilder.com

The Veil is Thin: Contemplating Samhain with an Omelet

The Veil is Thin: Contemplating Samhain with an Omelet

Being a conscious-minded mom, I'm wary of the kinds of rituals and traditions I partake in with my family--what they mean and what value they contribute to our lives.  As a nutritional therapist, I'm also wary of American holidays and traditions that somehow always center on candy and over-eating. As 'Halloween' drew near this year, despite the cute array of options for fun family costumes, we made the executive decision not to participate. In my search for some meaning and connection, I learned more about the celebration of Samhain, only to discover that it parallels the very inertia of my life at present. Commence gratitude. 

I've been drawn in the last year to sacred and ancestral rituals. Typical modern Americans like myself are so detached from any kind of authentic rooted traditions. Our ancestral ties trace far and wide, and our traditions become more distant and muddled with each generation. One such tradition that has been unrecognizably Americanized is Halloween--or Samhain--a Celtic tradition that celebrates the midpoint between the autumnal and winter equinoxes. This time of the year was often full of fear and unknowing, unsure of whether the Earth would provide a harvest plentiful enough to survive the winter. Not only was it a time to give thanks to the land for the provision and plenty of summer, but also a time to confront one's own mortality.  Face it: we might not survive the winter. At a time when their own death was strong on their minds, so too were their connections to ancestors and those-gone-by. This led to the tradition of leaving out gifts of food for the spirits of their ancestors passing through--you can see how we side-stepped from there. 

Penelope takes a "foot plunge" on our trip to Mt. Rainier in between mom's cold plunges. 

Penelope takes a "foot plunge" on our trip to Mt. Rainier in between mom's cold plunges. 

This year I felt inexplicably tied to this tradition and this time of remembrance, and I couldn't quite understand why. As I learned more, I discovered that these very celebrations of thanks and trepidations of the future are not only the cyclical celebrations of October 31st, they're also the meditations on my heart as I prepare for an uprooting life change leaving behind a landscape I truly love while entering into the new chapter of starting a business and expanding my family. 

So in preparation for our big move in two short weeks, we ventured back to Mt. Rainier as a family to say goodbye-for-now. The mountain has been a symbol to each of us in its own way. For me, its immense and beautiful and constant presence has ignited my love and respect for nature. My husband summited Rainier this summer signifying his dedication to his goals and nourishing his masculine hunger for feats of strength. Even my daughter feels connected to the mountain, seeing how it "follows us" to seemingly wherever we are in Washington (and even from a peak in Victoria, BC). We took a hike through a trail we'd never stopped at before, with no agenda other than to just soak in our surroundings despite the rain.  Along the way, I felt compelled to just offer my gratitude to the landscape, to express my wonder and amazement for the mushrooms and ferns, to revel in my smallness against the towering cedars. In return, the mountain gifted me this lovely Pig's Ear mushroom--a relative of the chanterelle.

Pig's Ear mushroom (Gomphus clavatus). A gourmet treat better than any Halloween candy!

Pig's Ear mushroom (Gomphus clavatus). A gourmet treat better than any Halloween candy!

Before going home, I indulged in what may be my last cold plunges in Washington. There are the obvious and cited benefits of cold plunging, but there are other more personal levels to it as well, especially plunging in moving waters. It makes me feel as though I'm pulling the very strength and energy of the mountain into my body through my skin. It transports me into deeper meditations. It moves things inside me as it moves around me, often stirring up revelations that have been blocked with distractions or resistance. It's a warm blanket of reassurance--just in the form of a glacially-cold mountain stream. Trust me, it makes sense. 

An invigorating plunge among the moss and lichen in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park. Also celebrating 18 weeks of pregnancy today.

An invigorating plunge among the moss and lichen in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park. Also celebrating 18 weeks of pregnancy today.

So on this rainy transitory morning of October 31--Samhain--I am simply choosing to forego the empty traditions of Halloween that have little to offer us this year. Hear me, I understand that it's harmless fun and often a happy memory of childhood. I'm just choosing to create new ones. A good friend told me a few weeks ago: "It's YOUR life. Create it the way that resonates with your soul!" I think that's what I'll do. 

Breakfast this morning is a delicious omelet of pig's ear and chanterelle, some chickweed picked on today's wet morning walk, and a dollop of local kraut. I am sad to leave here. It feels like I'm leaving an actual person or that I'm grieving a death--it's a visceral dull ache. But like my brother Daniel says, when we eat the foods of our local ecology, we bring our landscape into our cells. We become MADE of the land that we love. 

After two years of foraging and eating from this landscape and literally soaking it up through my skin, breathing it in and exploring as much of it as possible, Washington will travel with me wherever we go. Blessed Samhain to you, friend. 

Meta: Meditations on Meditating

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Meta: Meditations on Meditating

I've found the practice of meditation to be much like learning to hold a handstand.  At first you need all the support you can get, and maybe you spend a couple of blissed-out seconds floating in perfect balance, but it's not controlled and no sooner than you realize "I'm doing it! I'm in a handstand" you tilt and your feet are back on the ground and hopefully no furniture is broken.  Learning to control yourself, to ground yourself firmly to the floor, to hold perfect control over every muscle in your body while still trying not to think too hard about it--that comes with practice.  Meditation is just like that.  When you start, you're lucky to get those "I'm doing it! I'm meditating!" moments, only to realize that that very thought itself drew you out of it.

My meditation practice is about as perfected as my handstand (so...not), but it has become essential to me.  The very reason I'm choosing to write on this topic for my first post is that when I'm tasked with making a decision ("What should I write about first?") my instinct now is to meditate on it. And I should clarify that statement, because I think what many would translate that to mean is something like "Let me think about that," but meditation isn't thinking.  It is not cognitive, it's conscious. To meditate on something is to suspend your question in the space above you, to let go of it as it floats, to observe it almost from the third person--an entity outside yourself--and tap into Knowing. For novices like myself, suspending that question in air almost follows the same laws of gravity: I toss it up, it hovers a moment, then falls back into my hands.  But in those moments and mere seconds where I can permeate the delicate film between my cognition and my consciousness, it's like I have access to every sage piece of wisdom I've ever needed to know. I just constantly want to be up there pressing through that airy boundary, like I'm on a trampoline and at the apex of every rebound my head passes above the clouds and I can see and hear everything I need to know.  But only for a few seconds, catching glimpses and intuitions in pieces to later reassemble into meaning. 

So here I am, cross legged and still on the outside and all handstands and trampolines on the inside figuring out how to best serve this world and the people in it.  I am arriving, and I am grateful you're alongside to usher me in.

*Much appreciation to the lovely artisans at Samaya for gifting me this beautiful meditation cushion and to whom I haven't been able to publicly gush over until now.  Ethically hand made in the US, organic buckwheat and lavender filling, and an array of beautiful designs. Visit them at SAMAYA

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