October 09, 2014

August Petit Vour Box

So, you've seen me sing the praises of Petit Vour, as a company and for their beauty boxes. It's definitely fun to get a box of surprises in the mail every month. I admit though that I was a bit worried about what the August box would look like since the July box had my favorite everything in it. Had the bar been set too high?

Of course it hadn't. I loved this box (almost) as much as the last. Once again, I felt that there was a great range of products featured, and the value was high.

I love this eyeliner by Beauty Without Cruelty. Black eyeliner was a staple of my teenage life. I loved the way it made my eyes pop with intensity. I did on occasion still use eyeliner around the time I got sick. That and a whimsical eye shadow palette were all I had left of my dwindling makeup collection, but I have since thrown them all away. This eyeliner goes on so smooth and looks awesome. The black can be very delicate on my eyelids, but I can make it bold, too, if I want. I'm really into the softer looks, so this is a really appealing item for me.

Mi-Me is a brand I've seen here and there in bloggy land. Their tangerine lip butter was in the box. The scent of this lip butter is so uplifting and cheery. Let me tell you how excited I was that this was included in this month's box since I had just run out of my favorite tangerine lip balm. I knew I loved it right away. I could instantly feel it hydrating my lips, and they stayed soft and supple all day even when the product was long gone. And really, isn't that the point of products like this; to rehydrate our lips so we don't have to be constantly reapplying?

The Journey perfume by Harvey Prince was one thing that I wasn't too excited about. I could smell it when I opened the box and thought it was just too much for me. I kept an open mind though, and considered that it might smell differently when I spritzed it on. J loved how it smelled on me, but I wasn't quite convinced. I think it may be too "mature" smelling for me. I may still use it for certain occasions or I may gift it to someone who will love it. I'm undecided as of right now. One (massive) positive about this product is that it doesn't make me feel dizzy and sick the way that people's synthetic perfumes do. I'm sure that speaks to the quality of the ingredients.

The Earthbody Brighten cleanser and mask caught my interest right away. They included an insert with the ingredient list and description of the product. It's made of Moroccan lava clay, plant powders, and essential oils were made with Ayurvedic principles in mind. Yes, please! My skin is really loving this mask!

The Rose Mira Organics sweet coconut body butter gives me silky skin and smells like I'm on a tropical vacation. What's not to love about that? I use a lot of coconut oil to moisturize in the winter, so I knew this would hydrate dry spots on my skin very well. What was different about this vs. using coconut oil alone is that it soaked into my skin much faster and it had a bright fruity scent (the addition of the mango butter, no doubt) that I found really pleasing. Since winter will soon be here, I may have to invest in a full size of this one!

All in all, the August Petit Vour box was incredible. I still can't believe how much value they pack into one $15 box, and by value I don't mean monetarily but quality-wise. I'm quite happy with these monthly beauty boxes!

October 02, 2014

Autumn Apple Pie Green Smoothie, A Smoothie for Colder Weather

When the colder weather arrives, there's one health-related question I hear more than most: How can you drink smoothies in the fall and winter? Usually, the person is also silently asking how it is that they can manage to drink one in the winter, too, without feeling like an icicle. I can give some answers to this, but I think one must also consider why it is they want the smoothie in the first place. There are three major reasons that smoothies are a go-to breakfast choice for people.

1) Raw greens are your morning power food.

I know I feel this way. If I don't have anything green in the morning, I feel like something is missing. Having greens in the morning, raw greens usually, gives me the same "ready to take on the day" feeling that people get from coffee, and without the slump later in the day.

2) You love having a blended breakfast.

I know I'm not alone in that I like something light and easily digestible in the mornings. It's not very nice to bombard your digestive system with a heavy meal after fasting all night long, is it? When I ease in to eating, my body thanks me for it.

3) Smoothies are convenient.

What's quicker than pouring nut milk into a blender pitcher, adding in a few pieces of fruit and a handful of greens, and blending away? The cleanup is even fast, and the end product is super portable.

Now that we know why we want smoothies in the winter, let's find some options for those who just don't want their beloved green drink when it's cold.

Get your morning greens and digest easily

There are a couple changes you can make to accommodate your need for greens in the morning. Try having green juice alongside an oat or grain porridge. If you miss the creaminess of a smoothie, you can cook grains that you've ground up into a flour or try blending them after cooking. You'll have a creamy bowl of porridge! Not only is it a filling breakfast, but you can squeeze even more green goodness into a juice than a smoothie. If you don't have a juicer, you can either blend and strain the juice through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, or you can buy a quality green food powder to have along with whatever you eat for breakfast.

If it's not just raw greens that do the trick for you in the a.m., a vegetable saute with dark leafy greens is a beautiful breakfast. You can add in anything you'd like: beans, sweet potatoes, tempeh, a cooked grain, or whatever strikes your fancy. Some of these foods may be too much for you in the mornings. But you know your body and what feels good to eat in the morning, so tailor these suggestions to your wants.

Get the convenience factor

Getting a high quality green powder, as I mention above, is as convenient as it gets. I think these powders are nice to have on hand, but they shouldn't be relied upon for healthy breakfasts everyday. In the end, if you want options, you have to be flexible. Wash and cut your juicing produce the night before. Overnight oats or muesli are both fast and convenient options for hurried mornings. If you need something warm, rolled oats cook up in minutes. Add in warming spices, fruit, and nuts and you're done.

Speaking of wanting to stay warm....

I covered why people want to drink smoothies, but didn't expand upon why they feel they can't. Um, it's cold!!! For some people, smoothies just aren't going to happen in the colder months, which is totally fine (try some of the suggestions I mention above), but for those who want to find a way, these following suggestions will be useful.
  • Seasonal foods are your friend. Nature adjusts with the seasons and so must we. That means changing the way you think about building your smoothie. In the summer, I want banana soft serve all day everyday, I love sipping on a cool mango smoothie, and I can sit down and eat half of a watermelon with a spoon. In the winter however? Not so much. Sticking with seasonal fruits -- apples, pears, cranberries, etc. -- helps make winter smoothies more doable.  
  • Spices are your friend, too. (you have a lot of friends!) I like to use warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cayenne, turmeric, and ginger (fresh and dried) in my smoothies. For a few days, I'll put a tsp of cinnamon in, then maybe switch to 1/2 tsp allspice for a few days. You can even use spice blends like pumpkin pie or chai spice blends. 
  • Don't shy away from fats. Adding a sensible amount of fat to your smoothies, and your diet, during the fall and winter can make a real difference in how cold you feel. Try a handful of nuts or seeds in your smoothie or some coconut oil, the latter of which will help to boost your metabolism and keep you warm.
  • Just say no to frozen. If you do use frozen fruit, don't make it more than about 1/3 cup of berries or 1/2 banana. Otherwise, it starts to really cool down the drink which cools your body when you drink it. I try to make my smoothies about the same temperature that I like my water. (and I hope you're drinking water throughout the day!) 
  • Experiment with different smoothies. If you're making the same smoothies that satisfy in the summer, it's no wonder that you're turned off by them when it's cold. Browse around on the internet and in cookbooks, looking for some that might work when it's colder. Two that I can consistently drink no matter the weather are Ricki Heller's Protein-Rich Cranberry Oat Smoothie and Kimberly Snyder's GGS (Glowing Green Smoothie). And while you're here, you may as well give my apple pie smoothie a go!

Autumn Apple Pie Green Smoothie 

  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 small apples, any sweet variety
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/2 romaine heart (~2 cups chopped and loosely packed)
  • 3 Tbsp walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • dash of cloves
  • 3-5 drops of lemon stevia (opt.) or a spritz of fresh lemon juice

-Place all ingredients in the blender, greens last, and blend until smooth.

Tips: If you don't have a high-speed blender, you may need to add a bit more liquid. If so, add in a 1/4 cup of water or cider and continue blending.