Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DIY: Non-Toxic Odor Eliminator

Everybody loves a home that smells good. I do, too; but since I've began reading about how air fresheners and cleaning products contain lots of toxic ingredients, I changed my mind and my sense of smell.

Since now I just clean my apartment with natural cleaners - like water, vinegar and mild liquid soap -, I just can't tolerate the smell of harsh chemicals that can be found in the majority of cleaning products and air fresheners. My nose gets irritated and the house just doesn't smell good to me; it smells just like chemicals. That's why I stopped using these things for good. These toxic ingredients can also cause health problems. In the U.S., one in three people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis (source). Treatment for these conditions includes reducing synthetic chemicals in the home environment.

But, I still want my apartment to smell good. After all, I have two cats, and that means two litter boxes to take care of. I do my best to keep them clean; but sometimes the not-so-pleasant smell is inevitable. So, this week I began thinking: what can I do to make my apartment always smells good? I didn't want an overpowering smell, but a clean and gentle one.

I have found some recipes on the internet, tested them and did some modifications. I particularly liked one recipe and I will share with you.

This recipe is very simple. You will need:

  • Baking soda
  • Essential oil
  • Small container

You just need to fill the bottom of the container with baking soda and drop around 15 drops of any essential oil. I used sweet orange; I think citric fragrances are very refreshing. Now just mix everything, make holes on the top of the container and put anywhere you want. I, of course, put close to the litter boxes. 

I absolutely love this. Very simple and it does work. It gives the area a fresh scent of orange and plus, baking soda is also known as a natural odor eliminator; it absorbs unwanted scents.


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Where There's Fire, There's Potato Salad

20130516-193859.jpgSmoky Lemon-Dill Potato Salad
(serves 3-4)

Nothing says summer quite like potato salad. Never being one for mayonnaise, I prefer the tangy quality (not to mention healthier option) of Greek yogurt. While the dill and lemon juice add brightness and acidity, the smoked paprika and turmeric add a depth of flavor that keeps you going back for more.

2 lbs red potatoes
1/2 cup chopped dill
1/2 lemon juice
1/2-3/4 cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt (depending on how thick you like your salad. I used 1/2 since I like  mine thinner.)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (omit if you aren't a fan of smoky flavors)

Boil potatoes in water until fork tender (roughly 20 min.). Drain and cool in the sink or fridge for about 15 min. Then quarter the potatoes. Set aside.

For the sauce, combine all other ingredients and stir together in large bowl until spices and dill are incorporated. Place potatoes in bowl and mix gently. Enjoy.

[See this and more at Ellian's Flavor Files]

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Mayonnaise Hair Mask for Shiny, Soft, Hair

Mayonnaise consists of eggs, oil and vinegar—all of which are good for your hair. Add olive oil to the mix and you have a hair mask that will help calm frizz and restore moisture to your hair. While the vinegar in the mayonnaise works to lift residue and increases shine, the mixture of oils conditions your scalp, and seals the cuticle layer of each hair strand. This recipe also includes adding Banana. Bananas contain potassium, which helps soften dry hair cuticles, making your hair look smoother and silkier.
Mayonnaise Hair Mask
  • 3 tbsp of mayo
  • 1  peeled banana
  • 5-6 tbsp. base oil of your choice (select one or a combination): olive oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed or coconut oil
Oils Benefits:
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil – reduces oiliness
  • 2 tbsp.  olive oil – tames frizz and softens the hair
  • 2 tbsp. grapeseed oil – moisturizes
  • 8 drops of jojoba oil – moisturizes and adds shine

 Step 1
Add all ingredients to a blender (you can also use a hand mixer or simply mix by hand). Make sure the mixture is completely pureed without chunks of banana. Chunks of banana are VERY hard to get out of your hair, you've been warned.

Step 2
Apply the mask to dry or damp hair. Scoop the mask out of the blender or bowl using your hands and massage it into your hair and scalp.

Step 3
Wrap your hair in plastic wrap or slip on an old shower cap after applying the mask to your hair. Leave the mask on for approximately 30-45minutes.

Step 4
Rinse the mask from your hair, then shampoo lightly. Rinse with cool water. Allow your hair to air dry.

[photo courtesy of hellogiggle]

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Squat Jumps: A Complete Workout in One

Squat Jumps, also known as Jump Squats,  are the perfect "on the go" or "quick lunch break" workout.  It's a simple, yet challenging, cardio workout that works your calves, quads, glutes, and core!  You can easily add this to any of your workout routines or if you don't have time to do a complete workout, doing these alone will definitely hold you over.

Position A: Start with your arms stretched out, chin up, feet shoulder width apart, and stand up straight.

Position B: Squat - butt sticks out + upper body leans in, chin up, prepare to jump.

Position C: Use your arms to propel yourself up, jump high from your squat position, reach your hands and feet behind you.

Do 20, then 10 more- go!

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Get Gorgeous, Glowing, Skin

Naturally beautiful and glowing skin is something we all desire.  How great would it be to wake up, wash up, and just be ready to go without having to apply a lick of foundation?  It's possible.  If you want to get on the right track to healthier, glowing skin, follow these basic guidelines:

Drink Water
Whether it's morning tea, sassy water, or just plain ole water in my water bottle, always try to get at least 6-8 glasses worth of water per day.  Water is beneficial in the clear skin process because it helps to flush out toxins in the body, quickly.

Morning and Night Face Washing Routine
It is very important to develop both a morning and night routine, with heavier emphasis on the night routine.   Starting with the night routine, you want to make sure you wash off any makeup you've applied. Over the course of the day, makeup, dirt, and oil build up on your face- If you aren't washing it off at night, not only are you risking clogging your pores, but you are smearing more bacteria into your pillow where it can continue to get into your skin night after night. This is why the night routine is so important. After removing makeup (using a makeup remover), use a gentle soap to cleanse your face, rinse your face by splashing cool water (about 15 splashes), the cool water will help to close your pores. Follow up with a light oil-free moisturizer.  In the morning- you want to use a cleanser, a light facial scrub (about every 2 days for the scrub), an alcohol-free toner, and a good moisturizer.

Eat a Healthy Diet
No one ever wants to hear this one, but what you eat makes such a big difference in not only your skin, but in your overall performance as a living being. Healthy proteins and nutritious fruits and vegetables go a long way toward making skin glow. Add these elements to your diet to see quick results:
  • Omega 3 fatty acids. These are found in fish and walnuts, and are especially beneficial to your skin.
  • Vitamin C. This will help existing pimples heal faster, so eating a few servings of citrus fruits and spinach will help.
  • Fiber-rich foods. Fresh vegetables, nuts, and unprocessed fruit helps keep a fine balance and to be regular, not sluggish, in the gastrointestinal area. You may look and feel tired and sickly (headache and abdominal complaints), if you do not have regularity of elimination/movements once or more every day.
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Trouble Sleeping? Eat Cherries

One of nature's true healing foods. I always knew that cherries were an excellent source of antioxidants, but recently I was surprised to find out that this cute little fruit is also an all natural sleeping aide. Cherries naturally contain melatonin, a natural substance that is typically produced by your brain to regulate your sleep cycles. While your body does have the ability to produce its own melatonin, it typically does so only in darkness and not everyone is able to produce all the melatonin that is needed. Factors such as the artificial lighting that is found in many offices and homes limit how much melatonin is produced by your body. Eating cherries before bed acts as an all natural sleep aid that works by replacing some of the lost melatonin. Sounds like an excellent addition to my nightly routine, how about you?  Yes... I'm thinking cherries and some chamomile tea will do just fine.

Other Benefits

Helps Fight Cancer
Cherries, along with many other berries, are a rich source of antioxidants. They help prevent or repair the damage that is done to the body’s cells by free radicals. This means that antioxidants replace free radicals in your body before they can cause any damage.

Pain Relief and Bone Health, including arthritis and gout
Cherries contain a substance known as anthocyanins. This substance is effective in relieving pain by blocking out the inflammatory enzymes that cause it. According to the California Cherry Advisory Board, eating 20 cherries is 10 times more effective than taking aspirin. Anthocyanins also work to relieve the pain associated with arthritis and gout. Cherries also contain boron, which helps increase bone health when consumed in conjunction with magnesium and calcium.

Migraine Relief
By helping reduce inflammation in the body, the anthocyanin and bioflavonoids in cherries also help eliminate migraine headaches. These compounds are known to have similar activity to aspirin and ibuprofen.

How to Enjoy Cherries Daily

Tart cherries are readily available year-round. Dried and frozen tart cherries and cherry juice (or juice concentrate) are easy to find. Here are some ways to incorporate tart cherries into your daily diet.

1. Add dried cherries to trail mix or granola.

2. Add dried cherries to your cereal, oatmeal, yogurt or pancakes.

3. Add dried cherries to tossed salads, fruit salads and chicken salads.

4. Make cherry muffins instead of blueberry muffins.

5. Add dried cherries to oatmeal cookies instead of raisins.

6. Add frozen cherries to smoothies.

7. Make a cherry spritzer by adding cherry juice concentrate to cold seltzer water.

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Keep Your Hair Healthy and Beautiful All Summer

Spending a day at the beach, the pool, or a back yard BBQ is a favorite summer tradition, but what is it doing to your hair? Heat from the sun dries hair out and overexposure to UV rays breaks down proteins in your hair making it more brittle and more likely to break. Not only can the sun damage hair strands and ends, it can also damage the follicle itself. Salt water and the chemicals in pools can create buildup on your hair that, in time, will cause it to break or shed. But don't worry!  There are quite a few practically effortless ways to reverse these concerns.  If you're like me, you really love being out in the sun so...

Here are some tips to keep your hair healthy and beautiful through the summer:
  • Wear a hat while outside to avoid the damage caused by heat and UV rays. 
  • Use a UV protectant. You use SPF on your skin to protect from UV rays, but did you know the same protectant you use on your skin can also protect your hair? A great way to protect your hair on the go is to mix 3 teaspoons of your sunscreen, preferably SPF 25, with 3 and a half cups of water in a spray bottle and shake until well blended.
  • Wet your hair thoroughly before getting in the water to minimize the amount of chlorine or salt your hair absorbs.
  • Use a protectant such as coconut oil to help minimize chlorine penetration and keep your hair moisturized.
  • Use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner along with a protein treatment to lock moisture in your hair
[photo courtesy of glamour, source: hairfin]
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Overcoming the Past, Embracing Today and a Brighter Future

Dwelling on the past can be such an addictive thing. It’s a negative form of meditating. You can actually zone completely out, tune out all of your current surroundings, and live in the past for that entire moment or moments of dwelling. Whomever said time-traveling isn’t real has obviously never dwelled in the past before, because that is certainly a form of moving back in time.

We all go through different life experiences and as hard as it is to let go of something that has happened us, in order to experience a better NOW and a better tomorrow, we have to stop thinking about what happened yesterday.  Our past experiences will always be our own individual memories, lessons, gems, and demons; That's about as much possession that we need to embrace. From this point on, make a commitment to embracing the present. The present is the only point in time that we can actually fully experience- tomorrow will always be "tomorrow" and yesterday will always be "yesterday". However, what we do today can define our new memories of our newly created "past" and our outlook of our highly anticipated "tomorrow".

Take one last glance at the past and realize that it's over. Accept that it happened, accept that it has affected you, and let it go. The time to live is now, in the present. From now on when you find yourself thinking about and dwelling in the past, try saying this:

"No, I am here.. in the present. 
I breathe in and embrace my surroundings… 
I breathe out and let go of the past.
Happiness is my present. Happiness is my destiny."

3 Tips for Overcoming the Past

1.  Write down your goals and work towards them.
While your past may be a blueprint of what not to do, your goals are a blueprint of what you can do to live happily and move forward.  Take time to write future goals and even daily goals. Identify what it is that you want out of life, who you want to be, and how you are determined to get there. Daily goals can be as simple as vowing to smile all day, helping a stranger, or meeting new people.  When you keep your mind occupied, it leaves less room for drifting to the past.

2. Remove anything that reminds you of your past.
Sometimes we don't even realize that the reason we can't seem to let go of what bothers us from the past is because we have something in our faces subconsciously reminding us of it on a daily basis.  It can be a scent, a photo, an object, or even the way we have a room decorated. Do yourself a favor and give yourself a full cleanse. If you cannot quite pinpoint what it is that is sparking this memory- just give yourself and your surroundings a complete detox, clean, rearrange furniture, throw away photos that remind you of a bad experience, discard of everything that was associated with the memory. You may even find that you may have to remove a few people from your life or at least distance yourself until you are all healed.  Often times, a fresh start and new faces is all that is needed to jump start the path of happiness.

3. Do Some Charity Work.
Nothing makes your own problems seem smaller than helping those who are truly in need. There are tons of people struggling with life and death situations on a daily basis. Hunger, disease, homelessness, abuse, and more. Involving yourself in charity work is not only going to make you feel better (as well as the people in need) by helping and giving to others, it can open your eyes and help you realize that maybe, just maybe, your worries aren't so bad in comparison.  This alone may be a great boost for overcoming your past and appreciating your present life to the point that you are excited to finally embrace it.
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5 Ways to Have a Fun Workout

Sometimes just the thought of working out can be a dreadful one. For a lot of us, it isn't until we actually get into the groove of the workout that we start to truly enjoy it. It's so easy to get caught up on the intensity of the workout, that we forget the fact that we are doing a complete and wonderful service to our mind, body, and souls!  It is indeed an amazing and beautifying activity that we are engaging in so here are a few tips to help you have more fun when working out:

  1. Friends - Workout partners are the best type of motivators! Laugh, chat, Vine & Instagram through your workout- funnn!
  2. Classes - Try a new class like the latest fitness fad right now- aqua cycling! Group fitness will give you peer motivation.
  3. Style - Shop! Find a few new fitness pieces that you’d be happy to wear for your next workout. Add punchy colors to your workout wardrobe for motivation. Find your ‘energizing’ color.
  4. Change - There is nothing more exciting than change! Don’t do the same workout everyday- mix it up. There are around 640+ muscles in your body to work- wow.
  5. Meditate - Dr Oz. says 5 minutes a day will keep you ultra balanced. A still mind naturally reduces stress, thus leaves room for more fun!

“I hate saying, ‘I like exercising.’ I want to punch people who say that in the face." 
- Jennifer Lawrence

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5 Beauty Benefits of Drinking Water

Your hair, skin, body, and mind will thank you for choosing to indulge in this superpower beverage that we all take for granted so often. Approximately 70% of our body’s mass is made of water and according to a number of doctors, drinking a total of eight glasses of water a day fulfills the necessary requirement of this liquid our body demands.  With a percentage that high, you can only imagine how necessary water is to our bodies in order to properly function and be our best selves.


1. Control Calories with Water Intake
More and more, dieters are incorporating drinking water into their meal plans. Water is an excellent substitute for many high caloric beverages, like soda. According to WebMD, Researchers in Germany report that water consumption increases the rate at which people burn calories. When you consume water with your food it helps you feel full faster and naturally which in turn gives your digestive system a break and a chance for your body to better absorb what it is that you are eating. Research shows that drinking water about 20 minutes before meals reduces the amount of calories a person eats by 75%. Drinking plenty of water also prevents fluid retention, because your body won't try to retain water if it's getting enough. Fluid retention results in unnecessary added weight that can easily be shed by adding water to your daily life.

2.  Healthy, Smooth, and Younger Looking Skin
Water is absorbed by your cells and your cells make better skin, increasing elasticity, and prevents dryness by detoxifying the skin. Water is a perfect replacement for your expensive skin creams and aging treatments. It moisturizes your skin and keeps it fresh and glistening thereby enhancing its overall appeal. Drinking enough water can also combat skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, wrinkles and spots.

3. Be Happier, Be Smarter, Be More Productive at Work
Dehydration can cause serious irritability. The more water you drink the more your mood will improve- water lubricates the brain allowing it to properly function and help you be at your best. Drinking water can increase your cognitive function. Your brain needs a lot of oxygen in order to function at optimum levels. Drinking plenty of water ensures that your brain gets all the oxygen it needs. Drinking eight to ten cups of water per day can improve your levels of cognitive performance by as much as 30%! Since Your brain is mostly made up of water, drinking water helps you think better, be more alert and more concentrated.

4. Natural Remedy for Headaches
Drinking water helps to relieve headache and back pains due to dehydration. Although many reasons contribute to headache, dehydration is the common one.

5.  More Likely to Feel Healthy, Less Likely to Get Sick
Drinking plenty of water helps fight against flu and other ailments like kidney stones and heart attack. Water removes toxins and most of the waste products from our body contributing to a healthy quality of life.  Drinking water can improve your immune system overall.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Greek Yogurt: A Tasty Step in the Right Direction

Just recently over the past few months have I been on the Greek yogurt bandwagon. A bandwagon that I purposely avoided out of fear of just falling into the latest health fad.  However, after being forced by a loved one to at least taste it, I instantly fell in love with the thick, creamy, texture and delicious flavor!  As usual, the moment I declare love for something I just have to research everything about it and to my surprise, Greek yogurt was indeed more than just a health fad.  I've never been much of an indulger in yogurt, but now, I keep my fridge stocked with a healthy supply of this Greek Goodness.


 Loaded with Protein
According to Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of Read It Before You Eat It, digging into a cup of Greek yogurt can deliver as much protein as eating meat. "Greek yogurt has double the protein of most regular yogurts," she explains. "An 8-ounce cup has as much protein as a 3-ounce chicken cutlet!" In addition to being a key nutrient in building and maintaining your muscle mass, including protein in every meal can also keep you full longer.  Having such a high protein content also makes this food an excellent belly fat fighter!

Good for Your Stomach
If you’ve been trying to boost your probiotics you’re in luck. Greek yogurt can improve your digestive health, keep bacteria in your stomach healthy and boost your immune system.

Enjoy it with fresh berries for breakfast, or use it in place of sour cream on a baked potato or as a dip for fresh veggies. Greek yogurt also serves as an excellent post workout snack.  For maximum nutrients, make sure your Greek yogurt has "live and active culture", which is usually listed somewhere on the label.  One yogurt a day could help burn the fat away!


(photo courtesy of fitsugar(dot)com)

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Dry Brushing for Healthy Skin

You've seen it before and you probably even own one. The shower (body) brush. The brush that so many of us use to scrub our bodies down with soap, especially our backs.  But did you know that this brush is more beneficial as an exfoliation method before showering?  For the majority of my life I can say I honestly had no clue up until about 2 years ago.  Body brushing, or "dry brushing" has been practiced for hundreds of years in ancient cultures and is now heavily catching on in our western culture, adapted in many of the high-end spas as a way to decrease cellulite and improve skin appearance. 

Our skin is the largest organ of absorption and elimination. Many people exfoliate the skin on their faces regularly, but the truth is that your whole body could do with thorough and regular exfoliation. Dry skin brushing effectively opens up the pores on your skin. This is something you can -and should, be doing daily, even twice a day.  It's a sure-fire way to improve the appearance and condition of your skin without an expensive trip to the spa.  All you need is commitment and a body brush.

  • Brush skin when dry. Preferably in the morning before shower. Use natural vegetable-derived bristle brush. Brush in direction of heart. Follow with warm shower. Never brush broken skin. Do not brush before bed as it may interrupt sleep.

    Read more at WPBeginner: Health Benefits of Dry Body Brushing
     Brush skin when dry, preferably before shower
  • Use a brush that has natural vegetable-derived bristles (these typically have wooden handles. I personally like the brush that has a removable handle)
  • Brush your body in the direction toward your heart, starting from your feet (brush upwards making long sweeps- avoid back and forth, scrubbing, and circular motions)
  • You do not need to brush your face
  • Don't brush too hard. Your skin should feel stimulated, not irritated and never brush broken skin
  • Follow up with a warm shower

In addition to keeping the skin soft, smooth, and younger looking- dry brushing gets rid of dead skin cells (which by doing so helps the skin breathe), eliminates clogged skin pores, improves circulation and skin tone, firms the skin, reduces cellulite (by helping with even distribution of fat deposits), removes toxins from the body (by helping the lymphatic system work), reduces the need for body lotion, tones muscles, reduces bloating (by removing excess fluid in body), and strengthens the immune system.

in many of the high-end spas as a way to decrease cellulite and improve skin appearance.

Read more at WPBeginner: Health Benefits of Dry Body Brushing
the high-end spas as a way to decrease cellulite and improve skin appearance

Read more at WPBeginner: Health Benefits of Dry Body Brushing
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Easy Avocado Hair Mask

Once a week, one of my favorite things to do is give myself a deep conditioning hair mask! It's a weekly treat that my hair looks forward to and the benefits are endless.  Quite often, I am pretty busy and when I don't have the time or I'm too tired to do a fancy hair mask- I always rely on this easy avocado mask to get the job done.  It's my favorite mask, it's easy, and it's effective!

What you need:

1 ripe Avocado (or 2 depending on your hair length and thickness)
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 tbsp of Honey


1. Blend together ingredients.
2. Apply to hair.
3. Put a shower cap over your hair.
4. Leave in for 30-45 minutes. 
5. Rinse hair.


This mixture will take your dull and dry hair and give it life, shine, and softness!   Avocados are rich in potassium, Vitamin E, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin K,  fiber, folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, copper and protein and have been used in treating many skin and hair ailments. Olive Oil can help cure dandruff problems, adds shine, and it adds moisture which improves manageability.. Honey serves as an excellent conditioner for hair, has anti-bacterial properties for a healthy scalp, and acts as a humectant preventing hair loss by preventing loss of moisture.

My Take:

Mix together all the ingredients in a blender (preferably), a hand mixer or simply hand mixing will work, however- The smoother the mixture, the more effective the results and easier the rinsing will be. For the smoothest results, I find using a blender to be the best route.  Once you have all the ingredients mixed, apply it to your hair.  There are several ways to apply it. Ultimately, you will have to find what works best for you, but I tend to section my hair into 4 parts and work the avocado mixture into my hair and scalp. Then I twist my hair up and pull it back and under a shower cap for about 45 minutes. The shower cap is necessary in order to create heat.  Heat helps to open the hair follicle so that it can better absorb the nutrients from the mask.

You can apply this mask to dry hair, damp hair, or shampooed hair. I have tried it all 3 ways and I personally like to apply it to my damp hair before shampooing. It works well for me that way, but you may find that doing this deep condition after shampoo works more to your liking. It's your hair so of course you want to find what works best for you.  Let me know how it works out for you!

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