Health Related

Saltwater Joys – Product Review

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A friend of mine, Robin, started her own business last year! She makes, by hand, gorgeous, organic products like moisturizer, sunscreen and such. I am a bit a of a “junkie” for her stuff, so I thought I would do a product review here to tell you all about it!
Here are the items I have bought:
Saltwater Joys products

Scrumptious Body Whip

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Let’s start with Scrumptious, which is sort of Robin’s signature product. I don’t know exactly how she makes it, but I gather she whips the coconut oil and all the other ingredients until they are gorgeously fluffy.
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Because it’s made with coconut oil, you have to be careful not to let it get too warm! I was showing mine to my friend Angela and left it on the kitchen table on the hottest day of the year… so it melted a bit and now it isn’t quite as fluffy/bubbly/frothy! But it is still gorgeous!
SWJ - Scrumptious body whip-3Now, let me tell you why I love it. It is so smooth going on, it basically melts onto your skin. The vanilla beans she puts in makes it smell amazing! The main reason I got it was because I was having trouble with dry, itchy spots of skin — some on my face, some on my scalp. I started using Scrumptious on my face and just loved how it felt. There was no way I would react to it — like I do to other “creams” — and it really soothes my skin! I gather that not everyone can use coconut oil on their face, but Scrumptious is gorgeous for hands, arms or legs, too! And feet!
I would say if you have any kind of problem skin, you really should try it! She takes orders through her Facebook page.

Bella Bath Scrub

SWJ - Bella bath scrub
Bella Bath Scrub is a great alternative to store-bought stuff. It is made with coconut oil and himalayan and epsom salts, so it soothes, moisturizes and scrubs at the same time! As you can see from the label, I’ve used mine quite a bit! It’s amazing how nice my skin feels afterwards.
SWJ - Bella bath scrub-2
My only tiny complaint is that it’s really hard to get out of the jar! It’s very thick and I have to scrape it out with my fingernail. I am thinking of getting a little spoon to dig it out with! 🙂 I have a friend in the construction business, and he just scoops it out with 3 fingers and rubs it all over! He loves it.

Breathe Easier!

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One day, Robin was looking at the ingredients in Vick’s Vapo-rub — the stuff you rub on your chest or nose to ease congestion. There were some seriously sketchy ingredients in there — long chemical names, not good for ingestion — so she decided to make a natural version! She used coconut oil and Eucalyptus and Peppermint! That oughta clear out your sinuses!
I haven’t had occasion to use it yet, but it smells awesome and I love that it doesn’t have any chemicals in it. I mean, wouldn’t the essential oils be more effective anyway? And to think people put the chemical-laden stuff on their kids!!

Lemon Lavender Deodorant

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I’ve been using natural deodorant for quite a while. If you’re one of my blog followers, you know I love being a natural woman! 🙂 After I saw it on this webpage, I made a batch of powdered deodorant and have been using it since! However, powdering my armpits is sometimes a pain, and the jar I keep the powder in is not very portable for when I travel. So, Robin’s deodorant is a great product! It’s the same thing but in a cream form. It works great, and smells very nice with the lemon and lavender! I think she makes another “flavour” too — Citrus bliss peppermint. I am going to have to try that one!
For anyone nervous about using non-store-brand deodorant, don’t be! It honestly works great. You just rub a little on your underarms and go about your day!
I am trying to give you all a good, fair review, so the only “bad” thing I can say again is that once, when camping, I left it in a hot tent. Oops. It kinda melted and went sideways in the jar. However, I bet store-bought deodorant would have melted too in that tent! It was HOT! (If you look closely at the top photo, you can see how it is sideways! 😛

Sunscreen

SWJ - Sunscreen
I had no idea that you could make natural sunscreen until I heard that Saltwater Joys was selling it. Robin did some serious research here, to find out what oils have the highest natural SPF. Raspberry seed oil? I had never heard of it! But it’s one of the ingredients, because it has a natural SPF from 28-50 (depending on the quality of the oil). She has also added carrot-infused oil because, you guessed it, it’s got a great SPF too. Now, those aren’t the only 2 ingredients, so you can’t treat this sunscreen like it’s got an SPF of 28-50, however, I used it a couple of times when I was working outside and it was great for me!
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I couldn’t believe how nice it was going on. It was smooth and smelled so nice — I bought the citronella version — and made my skin feel so soft. Store-bought sunscreen is so often oily, and although Saltwater Joys’ products use oil, they aren’t oily, somehow. It’s one of nature’s mysteries, I guess!
Overall, if you were going to the beach in Mexico or Australia, I might not recommend it. It might not quite have enough SPF. However, I did not burn using it in Canada on those hot days in July. (Remember those?) 🙂

Just a side note: The sunscreen is not really green! The jar lids in all my pictures look blueish because they are reflecting the blue sky outside, and so that blue-tint has also turned the sunscreen a bit of green colour. To me, it looks yellow in real life — I think it’s the citronella that does that! 🙂 Sunscreen that also repels mosquitoes — hell, yeah!

So, go check out the Saltwater Joys Facebook page to see the latest products and make an order (just post on her page)! September’s products are spicy and pumpkiny! Oh man. I am going to have to order some!
I love supporting individuals and small, local businesses, and frankly, I kinda enjoy giving a thumbs-down to the big pharma companies that make things out of chemicals and label them natural. Not cool, guys. If you have any kind of problem skin, you have to try Scrumptious! It’s amazing.
Have a great day, everybody! To those following my blog, thanks! 🙂

Every Day, a New Hair Adventure

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In early April, I stumbled upon some articles on the internet about washing one’s hair without shampoo. Many people use baking soda and apple cider vinegar (abbreviated ACV), but I also found some sites discussing the hazards of that — the extreme pH differences can hurt the hair. Then I found this site about washing with water only and it intrigued me. It made sense to allow one’s natural oils to condition the hair, rather than stripping it with shampoo and then adding the oils back in, artificially, with conditioner. So, let me tell you the end result of this experiment!

I love my hair! As many of you know, I enjoy being “a natural woman,” and this new hair regime suits me. It might not suit everyone, but for many, I’d say it’s worth a try. If you like perfectly-coifed hair, this might not be for you, because I do find that sometimes my hair behaves unexpectedly! Water-only washing is especially recommended for naturally curly hair, but I don’t actually have curl, just cowlicks — and sometimes, it gets pretty licky!

best shampooThere is an initial oily stage that everyone has to go through. There are webpages out there that give hints on how to get through this stage gracefully. Since I was already washing only every second day and using a great tea-tree and peppermint-oil shampoo, I found that it did not take very long to get through this stage (3 weeks perhaps). I put my hair up lots and I don’t think people noticed very much.

After that, I went through a strange waxy stage, where I felt like I had helmet-head. Other women have commented on this on the internet, too. My hair was ridiculously thick and felt like I had something like styling wax in it. All over. Not good. I mean, it looked fine, but I could have made dreadlocks so easily. A quick google found the answer — lemon-juice rinse or “shampoo” with an egg. I did both, and it worked beautifully. Actually, on those super-hot days, I put lemon and water in a spray bottle and squirted my head from time to time… so the lemon spray kept me cool AND gave me highlights!

So, how is my hair different? The pro’s: it’s thicker, feels really healthy and has way more body than it used to. As mentioned, it has more “curl” than ever, which is sometimes frustrating, but should not be surprising, since my hair always has been easy to curl. The con’s: My hair gets staticky sometimes for no apparent reason. I can usually get it to stay down by dampening it. Speaking of wet, when I blow-dry it, sometimes I can’t tell if it’s dry or not. It feels thick, so I think it’s wet, but it isn’t. All things considered, I would definitely not go back to the normal way of washing and conditioning! I am intrigued by soap nuts, so I may try them some day, but I have no idea where to buy them.

howtowraphairbrushNow, here’s a pro-tip if you decide to try this: when your hair feels (or looks) a bit oily but you don’t want to wash it (or don’t have time), wrap cotton yarn around your hair brush and use that. This was key to my success! Some people recommend using a boar hair brush to absorb and distribute the oils throughout the hair, but I didn’t like it. The bristles are too bendy for me, and I found that cotton absorbed the oil fabulously and I could replace it whenever I wanted so my brush never got icky. I use the same cotton yarn that people use to make knitted wash cloths — you can buy it in lots of places — and I just wrap it around the brush, through the bristles (see photo at right).

This page says that the more you use shampoo, the more you need it, because it strips the natural oils so much, your scalp produces that much more. This makes so much sense to me! And this reinforces something else I recently realized: hair dye makes your hair go grey faster, therefore you need to buy more of it and are soon hooked! Grey hair is caused by a build up of hydrogen peroxide at the root, and what’s the main ingredient in most hair dye? Hydrogen peroxide. Have a look at this article. I guess it isn’t surprising! Hair colour, like so many things in this world, is meant to cover up a problem, not prevent it. So, let’s not be trusting the fashion industry, drug stores, or anything commercial, when it comes to health or beauty advice!!

If you are interested in trying the water-only method, google it, or try this site. And be prepared to give it a good, hearty try — not just a week or two. I think 2 months is needed to really let your scalp settle. You may even want to start in fall (how about now? 🙂 ) — summer is perhaps NOT the best time, as the heat can make the oily stage worse. Also, you need to use hot water, and on a hot day, who wants a HOT shower?

water-only washed hairI have my really good shampoo on standby if I get really dirty or dusty — my absolute favourite is in the photo near the beginning of this post. And remember, it’s not that I don’t wash my hair! It’s just that I don’t use detergent. I just use water!

Change is on the Wind…

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Something has happened to me. I don’t know what caused it, but today, when I stepped out of the house for the first time and felt the wind, I thought

Isn’t that a nice breeze… just the sort to “blow the stink off ya.”

Whoa. It was -18 C out (about 0 F)!* This nice breeze is WINDCHILL to everyone else in the world! Yikes. What has happened to me?

I’m turning into that lady from Cambridge Bay who — when everyone else is flipping their collars up, re-wrapping their scarves and pulling their toques on tighter — walks down the street with the wind gloriously blowing through her long black hair. It’s like she’s at a Hawaiian beach, she’s enjoying it that much. Any sort of wind we might get is like a gentle breeze compared to what she’s used to. For a split second, that was ME!!

Now, every Canadian knows how +5 C in fall feels so cold, and +5 C in spring is definitely T-shirt weather. It’s all relative — it all depends what we are used to! Once you get used to -40 C, as I have in the month, then -10 C with a breeze is still pretty pleasant. I figure with that breeze, it was about -25 C with the windchill — still a good deal warmer than -40 C. It’s all relative, and when the changes are incremental, it’s not so bad. We gradually inched our way down to -43 C a few weeks ago, and yes, it was bleepin’ cold, but we were more or less able to function.

toomanycheezies

So it seems to me, we can get through huge changes as long as they are fairly gradual and we are able to adapt. I wonder if I could apply this personally, to a change I want to try and make in my life. Could I make it gradual enough that it is fairly easy? Could I stop eating cheezies and other junk food by gradually eating less and less until I don’t eat any at all? Could I gradually change my life and my relationships by defining what I wish they were like and then gradually changing the way I act towards people around me?

The Big Leap cover
I think it just might work. If it’s gradual enough, it won’t even be painful or difficult. So rather than worrying about how something in my life isn’t working very well, I could take small steps to make my life a little bit better. If there is a “big leap” that must take place — like selling our house and moving — preparation helps to make the leap possible. I know that taking a big leap is an amazing way to change, but it can be really hard to do. I also know that we are always changing, so I ask myself

Am I becoming a kinder version of myself? Was I sweeter today than I was yesterday? Did I listen better and try to understand those around me? Is my integrity increasing; is my procrastination decreasing? Am I appreciating the good things around me more each day?

In a year’s time, I wonder how different I would be?

Our change is gradual, sequential and inevitable. It’s just a question of what we’re changing into. Among other things, I am turning into a real, serious northerner. For those especially cold days, I have ear flaps on my hat, but for the other days, I’ll let the wind blow through my hair a little.

The Downfalls of a Disciplined Lifestyle

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I have a lot of different kinds of friends. I have friends who work out lots and friends who never hit the gym. I have friends who read books like some people breathe air, and I have friends who never read. I have friends who love TV, others who hate it. I have friends who love the outdoors and friends who don’t. Some are easy-going and some are very motivated.

Among my “very motivated” friends, I have seen some extreme behaviour — they exercise a LOT, for example. It’s neat to see them change — they are really toned, fit and healthy. I have also noticed some of them changing the way they think.

Could it be all the endorphins? Does less body fat make you think clearer?

No, it’s not like that. While you will never hear anyone say it’s a bad thing to be motivated, I have noticed that those who choose a more disciplined lifestyle are in danger of being much more judgemental, closed-minded and even “extremist.” They can fall into the trap of believing that their more-controlled behaviour — not giving in to laziness, cravings, or sleeping in, for example — makes them a better person. They have their schtuff together. They are the master of themselves.

And this can make them want to be the master of others. It is a great distraction to worry about what someone — or everyone — else is doing. It’s a frigin’ amazing hobby to try to influence others into doing things your way — they should be like you and give up their loose-living, relaxed way of being. But, it can be a frustrating hobby, too, because lackadaisical people are notorious for not wanting to be reformed.

And I’m one of those lackadaisical people. I enjoy being mostly undisciplined. I like sleeping in sometimes, and eat what I want. I know certain foods don’t agree with me, so I stay away from them, and I know that exercise makes me feel more energetic, so I try to get some every day. But I’ll never, ever be the person who gets up at 5 am so she has time to do yoga before work — partly because I detest mornings so much and partly because some days I’d rather skip yoga and go for a walk instead.

As a bit of slacker, but also a bit of a philosopher, I can see that there isn’t a very big difference between a self-disciplined person who has allowed him or herself to become closed-minded and a militant extremist. Both believe their way is the best or only way, and both want everyone to be like them — or get out of their way. They believe that the world belongs to motivated people, to a certain kind of people, and the rest have no place on it. It’s not a very far leap from controlling everything you eat, to wanting to control what everyone eats (for their own good, of course), to controlling all food production, to dictating what foods are illegal. Substitute other obsessions for “food,” in my example, and a militant, extremist or dictator is born.

I’m not saying self-discipline is a bad thing, but I am saying it’s an individual thing. If you are a very motivated person, great. But that’s YOUR thing. It’s not how the whole world should be. There is more than enough room for everyone! So, when you’re out for your morning jog, go around the person reading a book at the bus stop, and smile. Raise a pint, now and then, to a lighthearted life!

4 a.m. Yoga

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I love 4 a.m. yoga. I am not a major yogi, and I have enjoyed doing yoga at more normal times of day, but my latest pastime is 4 a.m. yoga.

To clarify, I am not getting up, out of my warm, comfy bed, at 4 a.m. to do yoga. For those of you who know me, you know how I detest mornings. I will never be one to get up early for yoga, or much of anything else. For one, my muscles are way too tight to do any yoga poses, and for two, in my grumpy state I might accidentally kill someone. So, for these and other reasons too pedantic to go into, I only do 4 a.m. yoga when I am working night shifts.

4 a.m. is sort of a witching hour, don’t you think? It’s that time when the night can go either way — get better or get worse, get crazier or get saner. By doing yoga, I can stave off the crazier for a little longer and I get to stretch and do something that is fun but that, honestly, I don’t usually make time for in a regular day. I mean, I could take a break at 4 p.m. any old day and do some yoga, but I’m usually busy doing something else, or I would rather go for a walk (and get ice cream or cheezies, but that’s got nothing to do with yoga).

Well, enough preamble. Let me get to the core of the issue: the real reason I enjoy yoga at 4 a.m. is because it is humbling. I am no yoga perfectionist, but when I do it at other times of the day, I can usually pretzelate myself pretty well and I pride myself on being able to do the poses fairly well. But at 4 a.m.? I am just grateful to be awake. I allow myself to be completely horrible at it. I am humbled by the demands it makes on me, and that I am actually pretty awful at it. My sense of balance is almost non-existent, which makes some of the standing poses hilarious. So, I am humbled and chagrined — I have to laugh at myself a little — by this strange 4 a.m. practice.

Now, I know this isn’t likely to catch on for yoga classes or whatever, but I do my yoga alone. I have never been to a yoga studio, and I’ve never taken any lessons. I’ve learned the poses I know from a couple of videos. Despite this sheltered yoga-life, even I have noticed there’s quite a bit of ego involved in this spiritual-practice-turned-exercise-routine. I mean, if you’re self-effacing, you don’t buy hundred-dollar pants to do yoga in. I just think it might be getting a little crazy, and my 4 a.m. yoga is a nice change to that. It’s humbling. Grounding. And it helps me get through the longest part of the night in a pleasant, positive way. Plus, I can wear fleece long johns, which are far more sane than hundred-dollar pants.

So, if you’re interested, join me in some 4 a.m. yoga! Just don’t actually join me — I don’t want you to see me wobbling around on one leg in ill-fitting fuzzy long johns. 🙂

Off Coffee

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I’m off coffee again. I used to drink it like a maniac, but these days I go through phases where I drink a cup or 2 a day and then go off it for a few days. I usually get a headache on the second day off coffee — it used to be my Sunday headache because I drank it every day Monday to Friday but didn’t have any on Saturday. I have heard various things about it being bad for you, good for you, and that it adds to your “fire” or “yang” energy. Either way, I’ve pretty much decided I am going to stay away from the cheap stuff (especially instant) but enjoy a nice, hand-ground cup whenever I feel like it.

And what is hand-ground coffee, you ask? It’s what you do when you have some really great beans you want to brew but you don’t have a grinder — you grind it by hand in a cast-iron frying pan. With a rock, preferably. 🙂 This is what my awesome roommate and I did in Wrigley when I was there. It was, hands down, the best coffee ever! (The beans were Kicking Horse Coffee.)

A little over a week ago, I went to visit this roommate of mine, and he offered me a cup of tea. It was evening, so we weren’t going to get into coffee. I chose a nice black tea with loose leaves and put a few into my cup. I hadn’t had any coffee or black tea for about a week or so, and let me tell you what the first sip of caffeine felt like! It went straight to the frontal lobe of my brain — I’m not joking — and I could feel it doing something there. It was so obvious and so strange!

This got me thinking — are there any other times I have done this — gone off something and noticed a big effect when I started up again? One time, it was television.

I was totally off television for a couple of years, only watching tiny bits in restaurants and at friends’ places. Now, I’m still “off television” in principle, but my landlord likes to watch it sometimes, and I seem to find myself eating with him in front of the TV occasionally, or visiting with him in the living room with the TV on. Let me tell you how it affected me!

The first time I sat in front of it and actually watched some, I felt like someone was trying to program my brain. I felt like I was being manipulated and sold certain messages. I also felt like I was being “talked down to,” like I was stupid or at the very least, slow. It was so clear to me, it was startling. I remember turning to my landlord while the news was on and saying “do people actually believe this? Do they think this is all there is to this issue?” He had a sort of numb look on his face, but then he agreed that there was more to it. I don’t even remember what story was on the news. I felt a little better watching football — at least the message was straightforward and I didn’t feel manipulated.

I was off the internet (almost completely) for about a month this year too, not by choice. There were major delays in getting the phone and internet hooked up (read the story here), and when I went back online, I noticed something then, too. I felt a slight stress come back — stress to check my emails regularly and respond, to check facebook, to be reachable, and of course, to get all sorts of blogging and other things done on my various websites. Life had been so simple before…

I have realized something from this experience: Caffeine, TV and the internet are not inherently bad, but if I want to know how they effect me, the best way to do that is to go off for a while and then try a sample again. By paying attention while trying that sample, I can learn a lot about myself and how I react to whatever I had cut out. Then, I can decide if I want that affect on my life all the time, or if I want to stay “off.” So, for example, if you think TV is totally harmless, I challenge you to go off TV for a couple of weeks and then watch something again. How does it make you feel? Do you feel like I did? I am curious if you’ll have the same experience. Perhaps more than a couple of weeks is needed — let me know what your experience is.

I also think that things like TV and internet and coffee complicate our lives. We arrange our schedules around when certain shows are on, we use up large amounts of time on the internet and we change our travel route based on the drive-thru coffee shops along the way. When you eliminate these things, it is simpler, but then again, didn’t I recently discover it’s not about having a simpler life? Aaah well, I slipped back into an old pattern there! 🙂

If You’re Happy and You Know it… Grow Some Neurons!

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We’ve all heard and intuitively know that when you’re happier, you’re healthier. Joseph Campbell has been saying for ages — follow your bliss. Abraham-Hicks says it too — the most important thing is that you feel good now. Well, I recently came across a tidbit of research that tells me science is finally catching up!

I read this excellent article recently that explains how scientists have proven that serotonin — the hormone associated with happiness — helps rats grow new brain cells. Specifically, when a certain serotonin-receptor is stimulated, the rats grew new neurons in their Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The ENS is a complex system of about 100 million neurons that inhabit the “gut” which supervise digestion and have intricate ties with the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). This alone is quite revolutionary, that we have neurons, essentially brain tissue, in our gut and not just our brain. In fact, we have two “small brains” — one in our gut and one in our heart, which account for the nervous, fluttery or heart-poundy feelings we can get at times. As a fetus develops, all the neurological tissue starts out in one area, a sort of tube, which extends out to form clusters which eventually become the brain, the heart and the gut. The exact role of these “small brains” is unknown, but I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with our intuition. This is another excellent article about the heart’s rhythms and how the heart is a “small brain.”

The results of the study on the rats was published in The Journal of Neuroscience in August of 2009. So this isn’t even cutting-edge research (it’s just new to me). Yet so many of us are taught that if you drink too much, you’ll kill brain cells, and that you were only born with a certain number of them and if you kill them, you’ll never get them back. This is only half true — you can kill brain cells but you can also grow them back. If you are happy, your brain is healthier, and you are able to regrow new brain cells and the health of your existing cells is maintained. Plus, you can grow neurons in places other than your brain, and keep your gut and heart healthy.

Rack it up with all the other evidence that being happy is the best way to be! Nourish your playful spirit! Don’t let anything get you down. You are 100% in charge of your happiness and you can never blame circumstances when you’re miserable.

Note: I don’t approve of animal testing in general, but these studies on rats are pretty revolutionary. I hope the rats were treated well.