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2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Help them to help themselves

It has been a rough year. I don’t think I know a single person who isn’t exhausted, mentally, physically, spiritually, economically– you name it. So I hereby dedicate this first installment of my annual holiday gift guide to gifts that will help your loved ones take care of themselves. Because if we don’t take care of ourselves, and we lose the strength to persevere, all will be lost. For reals.

Goldie's mood mist no 9

photo courtesy of Goldie’s

Nothing says “Everything’s gonna be all right” like a cloud of beautifully balanced essential oil scented mist that is grounding and energizing, detoxifying and hydrating all in one. Goldie’s Mood Mist No 9 ($26) is going to improve the tone of your skin or the room you’re in, and everybody who gets near you will feel better. Which is actually a holiday gift for your entire community.

Red Flower 10000 Facial

photo courtesy Red Flower

If I had all the money in the world, I might just dump all of my other skin care products and exclusively use this 10,000 Self Care Beauty Practice set from Red Flower. You can get it all for $498 (it’s on sale!) and I promise you it is worth every penny. These creams and oils and soaps are unparalleled. But if I had to “settle” for their Hinoki mint mineral bath soak ($52) I would do so happily. And still feel like a queen. Or a king, for that matter.

Southampton Soap Co foot scrub

Photo courtesy of Southampton Soap Co

Sometimes there is no bathtub available. In these instances, however, a large pot will do nicely. Rubbing down feet with some Southampton soap cucumber mint healing foot scrub (from $25) and then soaking them in a pot full of warm water is like an instant vacation without having to deal with the long lines at airport security.

reflexology chart

While we’re on the topic of feet, reflexology is the science of massaging along specific energy meridians of the foot to help heal all sorts of physical ailments. Give a gift certificate for a 60 minute session at Perry St Reflexology ($125)… because we have all been marching since January 21 and our feet (and bodies) have had just about enough.

palo santo insence

Palo Santo incense ($20), or Holy Wood, wards off evil spirits and creates positive energy. And Lord knows we could all use some more positive energy these days.

Photo courtesy of Puerh

Photo courtesy of Puerh Brooklyn

A good cup of tea can make just about anything better. The turmeric/ginger blend (from $8) at Puehr Brooklyn Teashop might just be my all time favorite herbal tea. The anti-inflammatory qualities of turmeric mixed with the anti-oxident superpower of ginger make it powerful medicine. And a lovely teapot ($33) in which to brew these concoctions only sweetens the deal.

mndfl studio

Photo by Julia Robbs for Homepolish.com.

Meditation is probably the one thing that is most consistently recommended by doctors, therapists, yoga teachers and hippies alike for helping to relieve the stresses of this crazy world we find ourselves in. I have never, EVER, heard anyone say it is anything but beneficial. But it can be hard to start a consistent practice, which is where MNDFL Meditation Studios comes in. They provide the space and the teachers, so all you have to do is show up. Easy peasy. Think of a gift certificate from MNDFL like a gym membership for your mind.

A clean start for summer

eggwhite soap

This bar of Eggwhite Soap, or Eiwit Zeep as it’s known by the locals, hails from Belgium, though the Swedes are also known for their slightly different formulation of the same basic thing.

Now I admit that I am a sucker for a beauty product with old fashioned european style packaging, so when I saw this little bar of Eggwhite Soap, read the label which promised removal of all impurities and a fresh glow on the skin, I had to have it. The $5 price tag didn’t hurt either.

The timing is perfect… Summer has suddenly pounced upon us, and with the heat comes an extra layer of grime that requires a bit more effort in the daily face washing department. Who knew that generations of Swedish and Belgian women have been harnessing the protein rich power of egg whites, the soothing healing of chamomile and the deep moisture of palm oil and lecithin to keep their skin so lovely?

So much better than layers of foundation and powder. And much less expensive than dermabrasion.

I am wholeheartedly jumping right on this bandwagon.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. Just in case you forgot…

Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and I’m sure pretty much all of you have figured out what you are getting the mothers in your lives. (Plus you’ve probably already had the beautifully gift wrapped packages sent off ages ago!)

But if not, here are a few ideas of things that a mother like me might like… should you still be in need of suggestions.

red flower body cream

When in doubt, anything from my all-time favorite natural beauty line Red Flower is the perfect thing. All natural plus supreme luxury equals home run every time. Right now I’m feeling plum blossom silk cream, but you won’t go wrong with anything from their selection.

Jill Platner bands

Oh happy day… Jill Platner is having one of her rare sales! Run don’t walk… mother or no mother.

the metal lunch box

Our kids have their lunch boxes. Now it’s our mothers’ turn…

soi the bag light

Buy this little light so that never again will your beloved mother have to dump all the junk out of her bag to find the coat check stub…

white magic energy spray

What mother wouldn’t appreciate a little white magic energy spray?

bamboo calculator

I bet your mom remembers a time when everybody’s calculator wasn’t also their phone. And I also bet she wouldn’t mind going back to that time if her new calculator was made out of bamboo.

leff amsterdam steel tube bluetooth  speaker

Upgrade her sonic and visual situation at the same time with this bluetooth tube steel speaker.

And last but not least, Greenhouse Holistic Spa is offering a 2 for 1 deal on massages through the end of the week, so you can get one for your mom and pocket the free session for yourself!

Gift giving at it’s best…

It ain’t over till it’s over…

turmeric latte

Is this turmeric latte the answer to all of my problems? Maybe…

Sure it’s March, the days are getting noticeably longer (though that’s about to be rolled back a bit this weekend) and it was 70 degrees in New York City today. But don’t let that fool you. It is still very much cold and flu season. And there’s something nasty going around which I am determined not to catch if I can help it. I’ve upped the family’s daily dose of elderberry syrup and am trying (trying) to get enough sleep.

But the thing that I think may be really keeping me sniffle free (thanks to my friend Rita) is this most delicious ginger and turmeric latte which has now become part of my daily ritual.

It’s filed with all sorts of great things: turmeric (anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, supports liver function, plus lots more) ginger (which we all know is a wonder herb when it comes to fighting colds and flu) and, of course, coconut oil (which is as close to a nectar-of-the-gods as you can get in health terms). Add to that it’s almond milk base and you’ve got yourself an incredibly delicious soothing velvety mug of heaven.

It’s super easy to make (unless you are crazy like I am and feel the need to make your own almond milk, which is without a doubt better tasting, but which involves a bit of advance planning as you have to soak the nuts overnight). Start warming up a cup of almond milk. Then grate a teaspoonful of fresh turmeric and the same amount of fresh ginger into a blender with a tablespoon of coconut sugar, a pinch of sea salt and 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and combine. Once you’ve got that going, add the warm almond milk and blend till the whole mixture is smooth and frothy.

Here’s the original recipe on Goop, if you want a more traditional format. But whichever set of instructions you choose to follow, just make sure you try this… You won’t be sorry!

The struggle against the ravages of winter continues…

remedies brooklyn

I know that the traditional 14th wedding anniversary gift is roses, but we gave each other a lazy lunch and some herbal treats from Remedies Herb Shop instead…

My husband and I recently celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary! Hard to believe it’s been so long. I would say it feels like only yesterday that we were walking down the aisle together, but in reality it feels more like last week. Or maybe two weeks ago. Time has flown, but a lot has happened as well.

We had a glorious and slightly boozy lunch at Prime Meats, a meticulously wood paneled, slightly Germanic feeling, old New York kind of spot in Brooklyn’s Caroll Gardens. And then we wandered down Court Street and found ourselves in one of my current versions of heaven: a beautifully appointed herb shop.

Remedies has a long wall lined with jars of dried herbs, plus tinctures, creams, soaps, balms… you name it. I pretty much wanted everything. And the woman behind the counter (a friend of the owner’s) was a super knowledgeable practicing herbalist. Just the kind of angel one wishes were always a stone’s throw away.

We managed to escape with only 4 things (see the photo above) Burdock root to add to the bone broth I should have already made (but I swear I’m gonna do it this week!), some Hand to Hand salve for helping to repair dry heels and palms, a bundle of sage to burn for a little aromatherapy of the soul, and lastly, some charcoal soap with shea butter to purify as it moisturizes.

A lovely kit with which to begin year #14…

Monday, Monday– or a few links to some helpful post holiday cold & flu remedies

neti pot

Every home should have a neti pot. And this one is handmade out of ceramic (unlike the blue plastic one we have in our medicine cabinet) so it’s easy on both the eyes and the environment…

The day after thanksgiving, my daughter woke up with a sore throat and a barely audible voice. I’ve been in high octane remedy mode ever since… and I figure I’m not alone. So in honor of this particular and pernicious part of parenting, I give you a few links to some information and solutions to help beat that ubiquitous cold.

You probably already have some apple cider vinegar in your cupboard. If so, start sipping. You can also add a bit of cayenne pepper to the mix to help knock out that fever before it has the chance to really take hold.

An herbal face steam with thyme, rosemary and oregano will do wonders for your cough or congestion. Plus it’s kind of like turning your kitchen into a spa!

According to several studies, elderberry, when taken regularly, is as effective against influenza as a flu shot. I keep some homemade elderberry syrup in our fridge all season long.

We all know that Vitamin C is great against a cold. Why not make your own chewable tablets?

Omega 3 fatty acids boost the immune system, increase airflow to your lungs and generally make your brain work better by helping to strengthen the outer layer of your nerves. Clearly we all need to have some of this fat in our lives…

Astragalus is one of those plants that is on every herbalist’s list of things-to-take-all-the-time-during-cold-and-flu-season because, among other things, it boosts the immune system, supports liver function and gives you more energy. But did you know that it also helps to prevent white blood cell loss during chemotherapy?

And then, there is always the dreaded neti pot. No one likes them. But they clear up sinus congestion like nobody’s business.

Oh and ps… here’s a link to a post I wrote this past spring that lists a number of other remedies/supplements/etc you might want to consider as the temperatures fall and the health falters…

And suddenly, it’s cold and flu season again…

elderberry syrup ingredients

The makings of my family’s first line of defense against colds and flu.

It. Has. Begun.

On Thursday, we were all walking around in t-shirts. By Friday, my daughter was home sick with a runny nose and a low grade fever. The vast majority of my plans flew out the window, and I spent the day watching movies, drinking tea, reading and making this seasons’ batch of Elderberry syrup.

Elderberry is my favorite first line of defense against colds and flu… We drink the dark, flavorful elderberry tea almost every day during the fall and winter as a preventative measure. However, when the symptoms actually hit, I find the syrup to be even more effective. (The University of Maryland Medical Center has some good literature about Elderberry and how it works, if you want to go deep.)

This season, I found a recipe (from Wellness Mama) that includes ginger, cinnamon and cloves, three herbs which add a pleasing sweetness and complexity to the syrup, as well as their own immune boosting and antibiotic properties.

Here’s the recipe in all of its glory:

Black Elderberry Syrup, from Wellness Mama


⅔ cup black elderberries
3½ cups of water
2 Tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon cloves or clove powder
1 cup raw honey (we get from our farmer’s market)


Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)

Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.

Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.

When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a pint sized mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.

elderberry syrup

Here’s our fresh supply, ready to do battle against the evil viruses that plague us all this time of year…

Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.

Who doesn’t want their aura to glow?

Heritage store rose aura glow

Granted, this seaside location is probably enough to get anybody’s aura glowing, but this sumptuous rose oil doesn’t hurt…

Yesterday, I visited my friend Nancy (of the berry pie and the white balsamic vinegar) and found myself in need of some moisturizer after going for a swim with our kids.

Leave it to Nancy to take dry skin care to a whole new level… instead of some normal after-sun style lotion, she handed me this Aura Glow Rose Oil by Heritage Store. I was immediately captivated by the idea of emerging from the bathroom with a glowing aura, and when I read the label (which simply states that “Edgar Cayce says this formula is nourishing for the skin”) I was hooked. Even before I knew who the hell Edgar Cayce was.

Turns out he was a bit of a psychic who, after lying on the couch and falling into a “sleep” state, answered all sorts of questions about topics ranging from skin care to diet to religion to astrophysics. Many of his “readings” were concerned with diet, exercise and the importance of the patients’ own role in health care. Because of these writings, he is often referred to as the father of holistic medicine.

Which you can read more about and decide for yourself how you feel about Cayce specifically and psychic readings in general. All I know is that this Rose Oil smells fantastic and my skin was all glow-y and happy for hours after I put some on.

Which is good enough for me.

So it’s come to this…

daily meds

Say hello to my daily companions: Copaxone, Chaste Tree Berry, Rhodiola, A “women over 40″ multivitamin, Omega 3, a bunch of Vitamin D, and Magnesium Theonate.

Today I have decided to call attention to the rarely mentioned workhorses of my daily routine. These are not beauty products, though they most certainly contribute to my well being and as such could fall under that umbrella. As could sleep (which rarely puts in enough of an appearance) and delicious food. And travel to exotic places. And spa treatments. And babysitters…

But I digress.

This is a photograph of just the medication (be it a super western injectable, or an herbal tincture) that has been prescribed to me for various conditions by people with certified medical degrees. It is a snapshot of my physical reality. And a reminder, in pill and liquid form, of my mortality. And I am sure I’m not alone here. I mean, I just saw a post about grey hair in A Cup of Jo, for Pete’s sake.

But rather than look at this impressive heap of ingestibles and feel sad or overwhelmed, I take it as a call to action. Both to be thankful that my health is as solid as it is and to motivate myself to actually do some of the projects I have been circling around for years. Because now is the time.

This blog is one of those projects, and I will be forever grateful to all of you people out there for motivating me to post and for reminding me that I am not just shouting into the void.

If any of you have questions about MS, hormonal imbalance, or benign fibrosis give me a shout. I’ve got lots of opinions. Oh and if any of you have found an attractive pill box out there, I’m all ears.

We can get to all of the more fun stuff– creams and oils and superfoods– some other time.

Even the herbs have fairies

The first three books in the Herb Fairies series tell about about chickweed, violet and plantain.

The first three books in the Herb Fairies series tell about about chickweed, violet and plantain.

I have sworn up and down that I will not become one of those parents who forces my kids (or kid, as the case may be) to like all of the same things I like and to do all of the things I like to do. I will be respectful of her taste. I will not immediately poo pooh Katie Perry. I swear.

And yet, can I help it if I’d rather she listen to Prince? Or Bill Withers? Or even Queen?

But I digress.

My not-so-secret strategy for steering her in a more palatable direction is to expose her to all sorts of things I like, but without judgement. And then whatever she goes for, we pursue. Or, if I can find some version that has a bit of a princess vibe (what princess isn’t looking for Prince, in some form or another?) or some fairies attached, I’m good to go.

To wit, the genius of the Herb Fairies. They are a series of books (you order them online and print them out at home) that each tell the story of a bunch of kids, hanging around outdoors having adventures with a particular fairy who belongs to a specific healing herb. There are 13 books in all, plus recipes, activities, pages to color, etc, which means that by the end of the series, your kids (and you) will have a basic working knowledge of a wide assortment of healing herbs. I am a huge fan of natural remedies and alternative medicine, so nothing makes me happier than hearing my daughter ask for chickweed to help heal a scraped knee. Well… almost nothing…

From the same people who created the collaborative board game Wildcraft, comes this whole universe of plants and herbs designed especially for kids to explore and learn from while spending time outdoors and having fun with the whole family. But it’s only available for a short time each year, and now is the moment. Go to Herbfairies.com, download the free cookbook and learn more about the whole series. You can also access the books in electronic form… much easier for those of you with tablets, but less fun.

I know this sounds kind of like an infomercial, but I am still constantly thanking the friend who initially turned me on to these stories and I would be remiss if I didn’t try to pay it forward, so to speak.