It’s the Pits

DIY Deodorant Shot

Greenwashing is one of my biggest pet peeves. I absolutely hate it when I hear about a new product that is “natural” and “non-toxic” only to find out after reading the ingredient list that it is anything but. I have found deodorant to be especially challenging; trying to find something clean that actually works is no small feat.

When I say something that works, I don’t mean something that stops me from sweating. I am all for sweating, it performs an important detoxification function in my body, and to be perfectly honest I would rather have any and all toxins out rather than in. I am, however, trying to find a non stinky way to go about it. There is nothing worse than putting on a deodorant only to find that you don’t pass the smell test a couple of hours later!

So what are some ingredients to keep an eye out for when purchasing deodorant? Some of the things I look out for include Aluminum (including Potassium Alum, a primary ingredient in crystal deodorants),  ParabensPropylene GlycolPhenoxyethanol, TriclosanTalc, and perhaps worst of all Fragrance.

If you want to look into this further, a couple of great resources would include the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and a book entitled No More Dirty Looks (they also have a website by the same name). I found a great breakdown of different ingredients and their toxicity level on the Collective Evolution Website, which includes some of the ingredients listed above along with a few more to watch out for.

Doing all of this research over the past few years has left me feeling pretty dire about personal care products in general. Thankfully I have managed to find a couple of fantastic alternatives that really are non-toxic and natural, and most importantly, actually work!

My top picks are as follows:

Living Libations Poetic Pits – I absolutely love all of the products from Living Libations, and their poetic pits deodorant option is one of my all time favourites. They mix pure, undiluted sandalwood with a variety of different essential oils, so it is easy to personalize based on your scent preference. One sweep is all it takes, so a little goes a long way. It stands up to all kinds of challenges, including hot yoga! I have tried and love the Rose Glow and Petal scents, while my husband is a big fan of the Maverick option.

Meow Meow Tweet – I found this deodorant at The Good Planet Store here in Victoria, and was a big fan right off the bat. The consistency is smooth and easy to apply, and it comes in a couple of different scents. I love lavender, and my husband liked the tea tree scent.

Schmidt’s Deodorant – I found this one at Lifestyle Markets and The Market on Millstream. It comes in a range of scents; my husband loves the Cedarwood & Juniper, and I am a big fan of the Ylang Ylang and Calendula. This one has a chalkier consistency, but works well once it is rubbed in.

Dr Mist – another great option is the Dr Mist spray. It is a blend of very simple ingredients (water, sodium chloride, calcium, magnesium and optional essential oils). I found this one to be slightly less effective, but it is a great option if you find you are sensitive to baking soda.

Speaking of baking soda sensitivity, my husband and I found the deodorants above worked really well… Until we started noticing some irritation after sweating more in the very warm weather we have been experiencing of late. We both have super sensitive skin, so it isn’t surprising! I started looking into DIY options, partly because I love making things myself, and partly to make use of the growing number of jars we have accumulated. I found an amazing zero waste blog called Trash is for Tossers a little while ago, which has piqued my interest in DIY options to try and reduce packaging as much as possible. I found a couple of great recipes online, one by Scratch Mommy, and the other by The Paleo Mama. I also came across a blog detailing the benefits of Magnesium Oil, which I decided to include in my recipe.

This recipe is a work in progress, however after a week of testing we have found it to be an effective, non-irritating option:

Soothing DIY Deodorant:

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp mango butter
2 tsp beeswax (or carnauba wax, for a vegan friendly version)
1.5 Tbsp arrowroot powder
1.5 Tbsp diatomaceous clay
2 tsp jojoba or herbal infused olive oil*
1 Tbsp magnesium oil
5 drops vitamin e oil
5 drops lavender
5 drops Yoga Outreach Signature Scent

* I used a herbal infused olive oil from the Learning Herbs Herbal Remedy Kit, which includes calendula, comfrey, plantain and St John’s Wort)

Directions:

In a double boiler (or heat safe bowl set over a regular pot) melt coconut oil, mango butter, and beeswax. Let cool for a minute or so, then add arrowroot powder and diatomaceous clay, and blend until smooth. I used a mini food processor attachment for our immersion blender and found it worked really well.

Add the jojoba or infused olive oil, magnesium oil and essential oils of your choice and blend until smooth. I used lavender and a lovely blend from Yoga Outreach that I happened to have on hand, but tea tree would be a great option as well. Use a spatula to scoop the deodorant cream into small jars, and you are good to go! Using a mini spatula to scoop out product is a good option, although fingers also work in a pinch.

If you are currently using Antiperspirant you will definitely notice a difference switching to one of these non-toxic alternatives. But please keep in mind that sweating is a good thing, and that there are lots of healthy alternatives that really help manage the stink factor!

Have you found other non toxic deodorant options? If so, I would love to hear about them in the comment section below!

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Money Skills for Kids

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Finances are a challenging issue for many people, myself included. My relationship with money hasn’t always been a good one; if I were to be completely honest I would still categorize it under a “work in progress.” If you believe in multiple lifetimes, abundance is definitely my “thing” this time around.

There are so many issues around money for people, be they emotional, psychological, or spiritual. In addition we don’t live in a culture that really fosters fiscal responsibility, with banks handing out credit cards at universities (without the necessary credit counselling to go with them) and banks that will give you enough rope to hang yourself with when they offer ongoing credit increases. Not to mention wooden play sets for kids that include credit cards as a form of payment. We are not educated on money management in school; it is the responsibility of parents to pass down these skills to their children. Some do, but I would say the vast majority of people have their own issues around money and spending, and unfortunately some of these issues can get passed down for generations.

A couple of years ago I picked up a book called Debt Free Forever, by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. The title intrigued me, was such a thing even possible? For those of you who are not familiar with the book, she uses a jar system and purchasing in cash to keep track of finances and learn accountability and discipline – when the money is gone, it’s gone. There is no relying on a credit card to magically correct your overspending. She combines this with the painful process of looking closely at personal expenditures to see where exactly your money is going, and getting on track to eliminate any accumulated debt as quickly as possible.

I read through and implemented the tools in the book and it was a complete game changer. I implemented a budget for (I am embarrassed to admit) the first time ever. I was finally able to see where my money was going, and to appreciate that five dollars here and two dollars there were contributing to my being inexplicably short by the end of the month. Have I stuck to it 100%? Sadly, no. Some people are emotional eaters, I am an emotional spender. This is why I described myself as a work in progress above. But I can proudly say that I have made huge progress over the past few years. This process has also made me keenly aware of the skills I want to pass along to my kids, to ensure their relationship with money and spending is a healthy one.

A year ago I was walking through Chapters and noticed that Gail Vaz-Oxlade had come out with another book for kids, entitled Money Smart Kids: Teach Your Children Financial Confidence and Control. I was pretty thrilled to see it, and curious as to how her financial advice would relate to kids. I read through the book and a couple of months ago we put her tools into action. She suggests giving your children the same about of money as their age per week, and dividing that money into four categories. My daughter is 7, so she gets $7.00 per week. Out of this total amount, 5%, or $0.35 goes into sharing (charitable donation), 10%, or $0.70 goes into long term savings, and the remainder is divided between short term savings and “mad money”, aka spending money. My daughter is saving up for a costume, so she decided to put $5.00 into her short term savings, and the remaining $0.95 into her “mad money”. Her sister, who is a year younger has followed suit, along with my 3 year old son. We kept the kids’ piggy banks for their short term savings, and made up jars for their mad money, long term savings and sharing.

We have taken this opportunity to explain the importance of charitable donations, and will allow them to choose what they want to put the money towards when we do our annual donations close to Christmas. $0.30 a week doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up over time, and gives the kids a tangible perspective on how money can increase if you don’t touch it. We have set the goal of opening a bank account for the kids once they reach $20.00 with their long term savings, which will allow them to earn interest on the money they deposit. The girls have been tempted to dip into their short term savings on occasion, which allows us to have a discussion with them about picking and choosing, and thinking about what they want more out of the two options in front of them. They can choose between instant gratification and a longer wait for what they want, or a bit of patience and the ability to purchase an expensive item more quickly.

Through the process of implementing the jar system with my kids I have also rekindled my own sense of financial accountability. When I hear words come out of my mouth around making spending choices rather than impulsively buying that thing that looks so good at the time it allows me to wake up and be more conscious about my own expenditures. It really is true, that in the process of helping others you are truly helping yourself. It is such a gift to be able to learn these lessons through coaching my kids in their relationship with money, and to know that I am setting them up with good life skills in the process.


A Plant Friendly Take on Bulletproof Coffee

drink shots

I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. In the world we live in it is hard not to look at birthdays as a scourge, something that forces us to come face to face with our own mortality. Long gone are the days of joyful anticipation, counting down to this special day just for you. Now we are bombarded by anti-aging serums, featured in ads showcasing models and celebrities airbrushed to resemble something that doesn’t actually exist. But you can rest assured that it looks really young. And pore free of course.

This year I have made a conscious decision to take a different approach. I choose to express gratitude for every second I get to spend on this beautiful planet. I choose to embrace the craziness, messiness and chaos of life because underneath it all lies a beautiful opportunity for growth and spiritual development. I choose to see the challenges in my life as growth experiences that help make me a stronger, more spiritually evolved person. I celebrate the lines on my face as a reflection of the wisdom I have gained through life experience. I still have my challenges in making peace with myself (who doesn’t?) but at least this process of choosing acceptance brings me one step closer to living my life from a place of peace and contentment.

Longevity is a hot topic these days. There are so many studies and articles popping up all the time, with the promise of a holy grail of health and vitality. For longevity advice I tend to gravitate towards David Wolfe. His energy level is unreal, and his enthusiasm is infectious. I am working on his Nutrition Certification through the Body Mind Institute at the moment, and enjoy participating in his conferences. I have not made it to either the Longevity Now or Women’s Wellness conferences in person yet, but definitely have plans to do so in the future. In the meantime I appreciate having the opportunity to participate virtually, thanks to an online access pass. I really enjoy being able to watch at my convenience, and my husband and kids get in on the action, making it a family affair.

This year’s lineup of speakers was incredible (as always) not to mention highly inspirational. One of the people we listened to was David Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Coffee. I had heard about bulletproof coffee before, but hadn’t paid much attention, as we don’t eat butter and I am not a coffee drinker (two pretty basic requirements – or so I thought). Through the course of the talk I discovered that an important component was coconut oil, due to its medium chain triglycerides that help to kick start your metabolism (while also keeping you nicely satiated due to its status as a healthy fat).

In the spirit of personal experimentation (after all how can I recommend or dismiss something if I haven’t tried it myself?) I did some internet research and found some plant based interpretations of bulletproof coffee. We went high octane to start (using Organic Longevity Coffee) and then I decided to branch out into coffee free alternatives, for the sake of my poor, already overworked adrenals. David Asprey suggests using green tea on his website, but I prefer to combine Dandy Blend, a great coffee subsitute and Kickstart, an amazing blend from Harmonic Arts.

My husband and I have been really enjoying our not so bulletproof morning ritual. We have found that Kickstart gives us a gentle energy boost, while Dandy Blend provides a rich, coffee like flavour. I appreciate that this coffee free alternative helps us take advantage of the detoxifying benefits of dandelion root, the immune boosting properties of chaga, and the antioxidant benefits of raw cacao, all while providing much less acidity than a cup of coffee. We have also found that we are pleasantly full until lunch, which I was highly skeptical about as I tend to have a pretty healthy appetite. Will we continue to do this every day? I am not sure, variety is the spice of life after all. But for now we are really enjoying our morning ritual.

Here is our current recipe (feel free to modify to taste):

Not So Bulletproof “Coffee”

2 cups hot water
2 tsp Kickstart
1 tsp Dandy Blend
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp coconut manna (aka coconut butter)
A small handful of cashew nuts or hemp seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth. We use a Nutribullet or Vitamix, but a regular blender works well too. If you like your beverages super smooth, you can strain the liquid through a mesh sieve, or blend it a bit longer until no chunks remain. Skipping the blender step doesn’t work so well – instead of a frothy, creamy drink you will likely end up with oil floating around in your cup. Not so appetizing!

If you want to add a sweetener of choice, feel free – although I personally don’t think it needs it. Some of my personal recommendations would be coconut syrup, maple syrup, honey or stevia.

If you don’t have Kickstart on hand, you can swap it out for 1 Tbsp raw cacao and 1 tsp maca powder for a gentle energy boost. Or you can go the traditional route and use regular coffee – organic of course!

Enjoy!


Time to Relax and Unwind Thanks to Island Elements Retreat

South Island Retreat 1

A few weeks ago I was chatting with Emily Deslaurier and Rickilee Alexandra at The Yoga Den in Victoria, following Rickilee’s Medicine Making Yoga Herbs workshop. They mentioned an upcoming Island Elements Retreat they were facilitating the last weekend in May, and the more I heard them describe the various elements included (yoga, meditation, delicious food, a nature walk and kayaking) the more motivated I was to attend. I find it a constant challenge to try to find balance in my life; my upcoming birthday was the perfect excuse to carve out the time for myself, and have a girl’s weekend together as an experience gift with my Mom. The retreat started last Friday and we lucked out with gorgeous, sunny weather for the drive up to Sooke. The retreat was hosted by Stacey Jones, of iSurfiYoga, and Emily Deslaurier (whom I mentioned above), two warm and welcoming facilitators who went out of their way to make the weekend an incredible experience for everyone.

The retreat took place at the Vancouver Island Lodge, a gorgeous retreat centre that typically facilitates chartered fishing retreats. The owner and operator Ryan Chamberland put so much care into the lodge and surrounding area, it was a beautiful place to spend the weekend. We were definitely not his typical clientele, but he made us feel very welcome and was a gracious host, even going so far as to set up a roaring bonfire for us every night!

There were a few highlights that I took away from this retreat. The first was the ability to practice meditation and yoga with some amazing teachers, multiple times a day, in an absolutely stunning environment. We started each day with a seated meditation on a large bed of sea asparagus down by the water. I had never seen sea asparagus before, is a really strange and lovely hybrid of grass and seaweed, shaped like little mini asparagus shoots. My curiosity got the better of me the first morning, I broke off a little piece to sample and was rewarded with a taste that was a “salty, creamy crunch” in the words of a fellow attendee. I sat in meditation with the sun kissing my face, smelled the salty tang of the ocean and took in the chirping of the purple martins at a nearby sanctuary, grateful for this moment of peace and serenity.

We followed our morning meditations with a yoga practice led by Emily, a very gifted teacher who used all of the tools at her disposal to help us connect with both our surrounding environment and our practice. I appreciated that she switched things up, featuring a gentle stretch before our nighttime meals, and flow style classes in the morning. We experimented with practicing off our mats in the grass, which my inner child fully embraced. On Sunday morning Emily helped us workshop some balancing poses, which was a lot of fun. Katie Thacker came in to do a yin practice followed by yoga nidra on Sunday night. Her voice was soothing, the perfect compliment to our gentle movements and deep meditation experience. To say I was relaxed afterwards would be a huge understatement, I can’t remember the last time I slept so well.

Another big highlight for me with this retreat was the food. Anyone who knows me knows that food is a pretty high priority, and when I found out that Cindy from Ingredients Market was providing the meals I was very motivated to sign up! I have seen first hand how incredible her food is, both from dining at the Ingredients Cafe multiple times, and through attending Cindy’s Food is Medicine Series on Sunday nights at the Market. While it was hard to pick favourites out of all of the amazing meals we had, some of the highlights for me would include a thai kelp noodle salad, Mexican inspired lasagne, a medley of Indian curries, and trying sea asparagus cooked as part of a salad incorporating miners lettuce, “regular” asparagus and red peppers.

I would be remiss in my discussion of this retreat if I did not touch on all of the wonderful activities provided by our lovely facilitators. Our days were full, but I found the level of activity to be well balanced with downtime, where we could rest and relax, take a walk, or soak in the hot tub. Emily hosted a Desire Map workshop, which I absolutely loved. I am a huge fan of Danielle Laporte and love any opportunity to engage with her work. Examining and discussing my core desired feelings with such a supportive group of women (including my Mom) was a pretty amazing experience. We went on a guided hike around Matheson Lake with certified Wilderness Guide Saralyn Deslaurier and Herbalist Rickilee Alexandra. I learned so much from both of them, and thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the gorgeous natural environment surrounding us. A guide from Rush Adventures took us on a kayak tour around the inlet, pointing out lots of sights and sounds as we went. My arms got a good workout, and I enjoyed the peace and tranquility I experienced out on the water. Stacey led us through kombucha and chocolate making workshops, with delicious tastings afterwards.

This retreat taught me so many things. It taught me how important it is to take time to be still, and engage with the present moment. It taught me how important it is to connect with the natural environment, something I plan to take into my day to day life. I was so inspired by the women I spent time with over the weekend, I learned about various healthy living practices, rammed earth houses, and Green City Acres in Kelowna. I love to hear about passionate people who are making the world a better place, it brings me so much inspiration and hope for the future. I challenged and opened myself up in so many beautiful ways. Looking back I fully appreciated what a gift retreat experiences are, as an opportunity to take time away from day to day life to connect with myself and others. I also realized how important it is to make a retreat part of my day to day experience, to find time for peace and tranquility in the midst of the beautiful chaos that often makes up my life. Thank you so much Emily & Stacey, and everyone else who came together to make this beautiful experience possible.

I am curious to know, what daily practices do you find helpful when it comes to slowing down and being present in your life? What are some of the things you do to create a zen, retreat like experience at home?

South Island Retreat 3a