August 28, 2014

Five Free or Inexpensive Activities to do in Paris!

Luxembourg Gardens in Paris
1. Ride the bus! Number 69 takes you past many of the landmarks of Paris (starting near the Eiffel Tower) and ends up at Pere Lachaise cemetery, where tons of famous people are buried, including Jim Morrison, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Proust and Chopin.

2. Take the escalator up as far as you can, and then climb to the rooftop of department store Galeries Lafayette for a free panoramic view of Paris, including the iconic Eiffel Tower.

3. Go gaze upon the serene, Gothic beauty of Notre Dame, both inside and out. Then go wander the cobblestone streets of the nearby Latin Quarter.

4. Get some exercise on your way up the hill, then check out the view from the steps of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. After that, mosey on over to Place Tertre to see artists at work and selling their wares.

5. People watch at Luxembourg Gardens! If you have a few euros to spare, pick up a cafe creme and croissant "a emporter" or a scoop of rich, dark purple Berthilion cassis sorbet (trust me on this, for a burst of intense flavor you can't go wrong with this flavour) find a chair and relax.

August 24, 2014

Look Younger, Live Longer? The Case for Inner Health, Outer Beauty

Genetics, bone structure and cosmetic procedures (which may make you look smoother, but not necessarily younger and sometimes just strange) aside, there is some proof that your appearance is dependent on your internal health.

Handcrafted soaps from Marseilles
Once people reach the middle of their lives, the way they have lived up to that point is literally written all over their faces and bodies. Unless drastic measures are taken to turn around those habits of a lifetime, the prognosis for the decades to follow (hopefully 30+) years is not good.

This article, based on a 2008 study, explains that you really are what you eat and it shows on your face.

There are a lot of natural lifestyle changes that can be done to enhance your health, well-being and appearance. Of course, eating real, whole foods (mostly plant-based, at least half raw), exercising (especially resistance training), relaxation, sleep and being a positive, happy person with supportive relationships is key. We need to ensure balanced hormones and avoid toxins as well.

Using natural, unprocessed alternatives instead of mainstream, packaged products full of chemicals and toxins, will save your health and your pocketbook too!

Coconut oil, for example, can serve many uses, from body moisturizer to hair conditioner to mouthwash and it is very economical. With a little effort, you can also craft some of your own personal care products by combining pure ingredients with essential oils. There are whole books written on this subject and a google search yields countless ideas that use such basics as baking soda, avocado, honey, yogurt and olive oil. Vitamin E capsules are an easy night treatment for facial skin too.

If you are not the DIY type, seek out products that are made without harmful ingredients. You can check to see if the cosmetics and other personal care products you use are toxic and even carcinogenic!

August 17, 2014

Little Life Box - Sample Health Conscious Products!

Who doesn't love a present? Little Life Box is a Canadian subscription service, packed with goodies for health conscious consumers. The boxes are shipped on the first Monday of every month. The samples even come gift wrapped! 

If you decide to send the box to someone else, you can be sure they will be thrilled to get such a nice surprise - Little Life Box will even include a handwritten note from you! 

A vegan option is available and you can save some dollars by pre-paying for multiple months. If you fall in love with one of the products, you can go to the website for #littlelifebox and read more about where to purchase the item.

Here are just some of the samples included in my box:

Just opened, ready to dive in!
Delicious, crunchy crackers - also gluten-free
Matcha - great source of antioxidants!
A treat - gluten-free, nut-free, whole grain
Another guilty pleasure - discovered these in Britain this year!
Vegan Quinoa Granola
When you don't have time to juice here is a great option
TWO yummy nut & seed bars!
This soap smelled heavenly
Hemp is a great protein & good fat source
Great for travel!

August 12, 2014

8 Ways to Instantly Look More Youthful!

As we approach or bypass the mid-point of our lives, we are happy to still be here, enjoying life.

We don't want to give up on looking as good as possible though! These days, 60 is the new fortysomething. Just look at a few of many naturally beautiful celebrities, such as Lauren Hutton, Jamie Lee Curtis, Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, who have lines and wrinkles, but look naturally youthful and beautiful.

Aging gracefully requires putting forth a little effort, incorporating habits like healthy eating and regular exercise for long-term benefits such as strong bones and the ability to keep active and vital as long as possible.

Happily there are are a few "immediate gratification" strategies to institute if you want to look younger while you patiently wait for the many benefits from long-term lifestyle changes to kick in!

STOP doing the following, if you want to quickly and effortlessly look younger than your years!

1. Dying your hair a dark, too blonde or unnatural colour: Shades like solid black or bright red that do not flatter come to mind. The harsh contrast will emphasize lines, wrinkles and sagging in your face. A shade slightly lighter than your natural colour or some subtle highlights looks best, unless you are brave enough to embrace the silver highlights mother nature has given you!

2. Powder cosmetics: These products cake and seriously highlight any lines you have in your face. Dewy finishes work best, but search out products without toxic components endemic to the beauty industry, such as fragrance, phthalates and parabens. Check out this site to see how your personal care products stack up!

3. Wearing baggy clothes and painful shoes: You may have gained a few pounds around the middle, but don't resort to oversized apparel which will make you look bigger and sadder than you are. Going the opposite direction and buying things that are too snug is also a bad idea. Don't worry about the label size - try things on and choose what skims your curves. Wearing all one colour (a dress or matching pants/top) with a contrasting jacket over that subtracts pounds. A comfortable wedge or platform shoe that adds a little height helps too. Uncomfortable shoes, despite being pretty, are aging, since the pain will show in your face. Eventually, the damage to your feet will cause that frown to be permanently etched on your brow.

4. Slouching and looking glum: Good posture subtracts 5-10 pounds. A big smile lights up your face, distracts from lines and makes you look much younger. Need I say more?

5. Glittery eyeshadow: Looks garish (especially in a bright colour) and shows off those wrinkles. The older you get, the better you look with minimal makeup.

6. Neglecting to exfoliate: Exfoliation gets rid of dead skin cells on the surface that make your complexion look dull and dry. Regular scrubs will enhance cell turnover, encourage collagen growth and give you a healthy glow, due to enhanced circulation.

7. Drinking tea or coffee instead of water: Both of the first two options are dehydrating. Sure, you can have your cup of caffeine, but make sure to also drink a lot of water to plump up the appearance of your skin. A pinch of sea salt in the water will help your cells to hold onto it as will sipping it slowly throughout the day instead of guzzling.

8. Neglecting to add a little colour: Wearing some colour near your face (a pretty top or scarf) will reflect into your skin and give you a brighter, prettier appearance, as will some non-toxic lip colour or blush (see previous link to check out some good choices)!

August 8, 2014

My New Logo!

My new logo! This is the transparent version - it actually looks a little better on a white background.

I sketched out a few versions of my  design, then website developer extraordinaire made it look professional!

London B&B Caters to Dietary Restrictions - The Wellness Home

While visiting London recently, we found a really great place to stay - The Wellness Home, on the west side of London, in a cute area of shops called Chiswick. London. It was mere steps from the tube and and easy to get downtown quickly on the District or Piccadilly line. The hosts, Valerie and David, are very welcoming, helpful and pride themselves on their eco-conscious establishment.

We stayed in a comfortable and spacious twin room on the main floor, which has an ensuite bathroom with shower. There is a sitting room to use, but we were out sightseeing and just came home to crash!

Breakfast included more delicious, healthy food than you could imagine! Some of the delicious offerings were: homemade granola, muesli, nuts and seeds, bread, cheese and jams. You can also ask for a boiled, free-range egg if you are so inclined. I particularly enjoyed some fantastic vanilla coconut yogurt with an array of wonderful fresh fruit.

With a little notice, the hosts are happy to provide gluten-free and dairy-free options. We were very pleased to have some almond milk for our tea and a piece of gluten-free toast.

August 6, 2014

Sweet Peas in Paris

Some eye candy for you today, featuring my favourite shades of amethyst mauve and muted green.

Stay tuned for my recently designed logo (which incorporates the same pretty palette) and brand spanking new website, which is almost ready to launch!

August 2, 2014

Health Benefits of Coffee - It's NOT All Bad!

Some of you may be surprised to hear that I have gone back to drinking coffee. A little bit. Mind you, I don't brew endless pots and sip on it all day long as I once did! Why would I decide to once again take up a habit I worked hard to break? Why start drinking coffee again when there are many good reasons to NOT drink it at all? 

When I was in nutrition school, I gave a presentation about the evils of coffee and demonstrated a great substitute, my "Kick the Coffee Mocha Latte". I still love that recipe, but I have chosen to now drink coffee sparingly. I have just one cup per day, in the morning and usually use naturally water processed, decaffeinated, organic beans that I grind myself. 

Coffee is one of the most pesticide soaked crops in existence so it is a very bad idea to just pick up a cup at your local drive-through. You must seek out organic coffee or make it yourself at home with organic beans.

Drinking coffee may not the best decision for everyone. If you are unduly sensitive to caffeine, for instance, I would not recommend starting to drink it! Coffee is a drug, after all. The normal action of adenosine is blocked by the caffeine therein and it thus induces sleeplessness and increased brain activity. If you suffer from adrenal exhaustion, osteoporosis, electrolyte imbalance (due to diuretic effect) or pregnant or nursing a baby, you would also be wise to avoid coffee and caffeine in general, so that would include teas too.

I started to realize that when I used to drink BLACK coffee, I never experienced any digestive issues such as heartburn. Since I quit, my dentist informed me that there was a lot of wear on my teeth from acid, probably silent reflux at night and a subsequent visit with a specialist confirmed that I had laryngeal pharyngeal reflux. My herbal medicine instructor mentioned in a lecture that studies have shown that black coffee drinkers never get liver cancer! Coffee is a bitter that stimulates gastric juices that help us digest our food.

What are the other benefits of coffee? There is a lot of evidence that coffee helps to stabilize blood sugar. The caffeine in coffee binds to opioid receptors and curbs cravings for sugary foods. When taken just before exercise, it can help with endurance as well as burning fat. However, don't drink it after your workout as it can interfere with building muscle!

The type of bean is also a factor, with darker roasts actually having LESS caffeine. Drip coffee has more caffeine than espresso due to increased brewing time, so if you find you cannot tolerate the coffee you are drinking, know that you might be able to drink a different brand, roast or brewing method.

Coffee is very high in polyphenols (antioxidants) and is in fact the highest source of antioxidants in the Standard American Diet!! There is evidence that coffee benefits your heart, memory and prevents cognitive decline and depression.

So, if you think drinking coffee may be beneficial for you, keep these pointers in mind:

1. Buy organic whole beans and grind them yourself to maintain freshness 
2. Use pure filtered water
3. Use unbleached filters to prevent chlorine and dioxins from leaching into your drink
4. Drink it black (so you don't spike your insulin levels) and before exercise
5. Be careful about your container - no plastic cups that could leach BPA into the hot liquid
6. One cup or espresso shot per day (espresso is lower in caffeine due to less contact with the water)
7. If you are caffeine sensitive, use water process decaf, not chemically processed decaf

July 22, 2014

European Travel - Packing Light for Women!

For traveling to major cities in Europe, you want to look chic, but not have to haul around tons of stuff. Since you will be on the move, you don't need to worry about having multiple outfits. People you encounter will not likely be seeing you again. Even if they do, you can easily change up your look with accessories, such as scarves. Scarves are practically compulsory when in Paris anyhow.

This dress takes up no space and does not wrinkle!

The most important wardrobe essential for travel, without question, is comfortable shoes. You need at least two pairs, so you can alternate, especially if you are unfortunate enough to get a blister. I have problem feet, so I can't wear little ballet flats or any kind of heel. In summer, at least one of my pairs (packed in my luggage) is either Birkenstock Gizeh, Fitflops or Dansko sandals. The other pair, larger and heavier, are my black Blundstone boots, which I wear at the airport with leggings and a tunic. They may not be the most beautiful shoes in the world, but comfort trumps looks when you are walking all day long! This time, for a 3-week trip, I brought 3 pairs total and  I did not regret having any of them!

I find leggings ideal for plane or extensive car travel as they are so comfortable. Leggings are also good to pair with a little dress in the morning, when it is cooler, and you can strip them off as the day warms up.

I always have a cozy scarf on the plane. It looks elegant and also comes in handy when the air becomes frigid when in flight. Layering your clothing is also a good idea for the same reason, since the temperature when on board can also get very hot at times.

Packing light for a 3-week trip is a challenge, but you will be very thankful to have spent some time planning how to get by with as few items as possible when you are hauling your luggage up and down stairs.

With my leopard Birkenstocks, little black dress, scarf and small cross-body bag at The Louvre
My luggage consists of a small cross-body purse, where I keep my tickets, money, passport and other important documents. I also have a small backpack, containing a plastic zip-lock bag with sample size toiletries, reading material, camera, computer, neck pillow and snacks. Finally, my other clothing goes into a small suitcase with wheels. I will talk more about food for the trip in another post.

The small backpack is useful for day trips, so choose one that is a neutral which will coordinate with your outfits. You are able to bring a jacket, your camera and lunch in the backpack and still have your hands free.

I usually pack enough underwear to last a week (in a mesh zip bag), a few tops, a button front shirt that can also act as a light jacket, a knit dress and a pair of black pants, which can look casual or dressy. Rolling up the articles keeps them wrinkle-free. I also bring a few pairs of wool blend socks, which are blister-proof. If you fun low on clothing, you can always buy some new tops at your destination, which will be a fun souvenir of your trip!

I learned the hard way during my latest trip to always bring my featherweight down coat (even in the summer) which packs down to take up very little space. I froze on our first day in England, when it was rainy and cool. I think it is a good idea to bring a cashmere or wool sweater and rainproof jacket with a hood as well. A silk camisole which can slip easily under other clothing will keep you warm as well.

Make sure all your clothing mixes and matches. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane, including your outerwear, which you can take off upon boarding and stow in the overhead compartment. Start planning well ahead of time, laying out the pieces to see how things will match.

I am not much of a jewelry person, so I just wear my silver heart on a black silk cord, which is supposed to safeguard against EMF radiation. In order to get some sleep on the overnight trip to Europe, I used an inexpensive neck pillow (I got mine at the dollar store and put a cover over it which can be washed) and take a herbal supplement. There are many options - Valerian, Skullcap or Passionflower are a few herbs that will help you doze off.

I always debate about umbrellas. I did end up taking a small one this time, but I only used it once, on our first day in England. So, my advice is to buy one at your destination if you need it (for light rain, you can just flip up your waterproof jacket hood) so you don't have to unnecessarily carry it all over Europe!

Make sure to buy a power adapter (for the shape of the plug) for each country you will be visiting! They are different for UK and France. These adapters make it possible for you to recharge your computer and usually your camera battery (which usually operate on both 110 and 220 volts). If you haul along other North American appliances, such as hairdryers, that only take 110 volts, you will need converter plug adapters as well. I immediately regretted my lack of foresight in this area when I plugged in my water pik in my UK hotel room and after a couple of seconds of super power, it died! Converters and adapters are readily available at airports, so if you forget, that is the best place to purchase one.

I only check the suitcase if it is free to do so (tie a colourful ribbon on it for quick identification at the luggage carousel) or I am traveling with artist's materials that cannot be taken on board. Do you have a favourite travel tip?

July 15, 2014

Green "Jus du Jour"

Green juice on an empty stomach is one of the best things you can drink for your energy, health and beauty!

Leave out sweet and starchy fruits and vegetables to avoid the blood sugar/insulin effect that those items will provoke.

Some citrus and a little sea salt provide flavour, vitamin C and minerals!

Green "Juice of the Day"

Green Juice for One

Romaine lettuce, 4 leaves
Asparagus stems, 1/2 cup
one garlic clove
parsley, handful of stems
cucumber, 1/2 large english
celery, 3 large stalks
one whole lime, peeled
pinch of sea salt

1. Wash everything and cut into shapes that will fit through the juicer opening.
2. Feed the items through your juicer (preferably a slow, single augur juicer such as Omega), alternating hard and soft foods.
3.  Drink immediately, sipping it slowly!

*Feel free to use whatever you have in your fridge that is green! I love dill in this as well. Sprouts would also be great.

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