Jan 19, 2016
Maybe you've heard about Floating AKA reduced environmental stimulant therapy (REST) or sensory deprivation. I'll admit I didn't know much about the therapy other than vague images of 1960s sci-fi iron lungs and a loose memory of an episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Lisa go into pods and trip out in the darkness. That said, I keep hearing about Floating and all the amazing physical and mental benefits it offers, and BOOM Birmingham has the only float spa in the state (and region, I believe), Elements Float Spa. When they invited me to come experience my first float I jumped at the opportunity.
The main entrance to Elements. Really pretty and serene.
Me before my float. I seem a little uptight, right? I wasn't afterwards!
What is floating? So there's this amazing space age pod filled with 10 inches of water and 1000 pounds of medical grade Epsom salts, creating an environment where you absolutely float (think like the Dead Sea). At 93.5 degrees F, the water perfectly maintains your body temp, allowing your body and muscles to fully relax, and within 15-20 minutes you're in a really profound state of relaxation.
What does that mean? So our brains operate of various wavelengths. Floating gives us the unique opportunity and environment to subtly change our body and brain's chemistry, switching to the parasympathetic nervous system and Theta brainwave frequency. It's in these states that the body fast tracks healing on a cellular level and the mind becomes quiet and still without falling asleep. It's a meditative state. You're not going to be hypnotized or be thrown into some deep state, unless you want and allow yourself to go there.
What does it feel like and is it clean? Elements Float Spa is immaculately clean with all the vibes of a therapeutic spa. There are two rooms for floating, each room with a shower, a pod and any amenities you may need. You shower prior to your float, you get in the pod and you push a button to begin and the lights turn off, the filtration system stops and it is perfectly quiet and still. If you have issues with being enclosed in the dark, you can leave the pod door open or crack it and you can float in darkness or with a gently colored light that you can control. There's also the opportunity to plug in your own music if silence isn't your thing. Also, they offer you petroleum jelly if you need to cover any open scratches, cuts or sensitive skin that you don't want exposed to the salt. (I have a couple patches of eczema that I did not cover and while it burned pretty intensely for about 60 seconds, the salt was ultimately good for it.) They also give you standard earplugs if you worry about allowing your head to fully relax and be submerged in the salt water, and there's a mini foam roller to place behind your neck if you need some neck support.
Each float room has earplugs, water barrier for sensitive skin, towels, flipflops, a foam roller for the neck and more.
Cleanliness is a top priority there. The salt content of the water itself is 30% and pathogenic organisms cannot survive higher than 10% salinity. And when you're not in the pod, there's a 24 hr/day UV and ozone filtration system at work. Firsthand experience, everything there is spotless and I feel super safe.
When you get in the pod, the water feels dense and warm. In one hour I never became chilly or too hot, though the air does get a little thick with the door completely closed. You can always crack it if you need to, but I really enjoyed the door down and the air heavy. When you pull yourself out of the water, it feels almost gel like on your skin, though still being liquid. Your skin feels slippery and super hydrated. Your skin and hair do not get dried out or pruney! After my float was over, I simply rinsed off in the shower, not using soap or shampoo. And my hair looked freaking awesome for DAYS.
There is a relaxation lounge for use before and after your session. It's really peaceful and serene.
What was the float experience like? I was nervous at first because I went in there with these expectations that I should slip into a deep meditative state ASAP, and I actually struggled to fully relax once I was simply left with myself in the stillness. This speaks so much more to my own stuff that needs the therapy of floating: I am constantly in fight or flight/stress mode. I struggle to turn off because of being overstimulated in my day to day life. My first several minutes in the float pod were marked by recognizing this and accepting it. I also noticed that with the weightlessness of floating, I could pinpoint where actual physical pain exists. It's a little freaky at first because without all your other senses turned on, your thinking mind rushes to the place where there is sensation. Once I gave up trying to adjust myself and accepted myself, fidgety minded and a little achey in the neck, I started to relax. I focused on my breath. I fidgeted occasionally. I reminded myself that this was my time to accept rest, to accept peace and quiet and the benefits of the salt water. At a certain point I even sat up in the tub and just let my limbs move around and I had this memory of being a little kid and pretending to be a mermaid in anybody of water I could get in, and the words "sacred bath" popped into my head and I smiled and felt myself actually relax. This is not a New Age experience, but it was a deeply personal moment for me and speaks to the fact that each float is unique to the individual.
When I got out of the float, I felt lighter. My joints and the weight of my body felt lighter. I felt pretty radiant and man, my skin and hair looked radiant! And I felt those effects for three or four days afterwards. I noticed I handled stress better, that my baseline was less stressed, that I slept better and that I didn't have the body aches I normally do. That's the minerals at work on a cellular level! Magnesium is a mineral that we ALL NEED SO BADLY but are frequently deficient in. The float gave me a superdose in it that lasted for days!
The relaxation lounge has couches, info on floating, materials for journaling and a beautiful offering of teas and waters.
What are the health benefits? There are SUCH EXTENSIVE benefits. Here are just a few that have some science behind them:
***If you have acute health conditions, talk to your doc and let the Spa know ahead of time. Floating is beneficial to pregnant women after the first trimester.
In summary, I get it. I totally get why this is such a phenomenal healing modality whether you're looking at it from a purely medical/ physically therapeutic POV or if you're wanting some of the mental/emotional/spiritual benefits, too. And I fully believe that regular floats (weekly or 2/month) could mutually compliment other healing modalities (physical therapy, exercise, meditation, energy work). I have heard some really amazing testimonies of long-term float benefits in the improvement of depression and anxiety and chronic pain. It isn't cheap, but there are packages where you get good price breaks.
Additionally, Elements Float Spa offers an infrared sauna and you can also book an energy session, wellness coaching appointment or Reiki with Sheri Bagwell. I met Sheri a while back, and she has become someone I cherish very deeply. I recently experienced one of her energy healing sessions to address some adrenal fatigue and some deep rooted energy blocks going back to my childhood and it has ROCKED MY WORLD in the best way possible. I will be having quarterly sessions with her as part of my Sacred Self Care regimen. But I will write more about that next week.
To book a session at Elements Float Spa, click here. It's a super easy process. And be sure to tell them that Rugged and Fancy sent you!
So Much Love,
Oct 8, 2015
This is me on a good hair day. And lately I am having day after day after day's worth of good hair.
Here's a little background info... I have ALWAYS been borderline obsessive about my hair. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the first time I radically cut it off, my eccentric mother made me sign a contract promising to work in the potato fields if I didn't like it. (That's a real story and you can see the contract here.) I want it long. And I want it blonde. (Again, for the record, I am a natural blonde, but just not quite as blonde as I prefer.)
Here's the irony of my hair obsession: I only go to a salon maybe once a year, and it's mostly on account of the fact that the chemicals are SO HARSH for me. To get a really good blonde, I have traditionally ended up with actual blisters on my scalp and a migraine from the fumes. Yeah, that's actually what happens to me.
Without options, it's just something I was willing to forgo because the end result, pretty and fresh hair that boosts my self-confidence and helps me feel a little more like me, was worth more than the detriment it caused to my body.
So that's the back story... Right out of the gate, I am just going to tell you that the beautiful hair pictured above was created without use of harsh chemicals, without blistering, burning or pain. And I have to thank Sheri Bagwell for it.
Birmingham's wellness community is just beginning to grow, so right now you could call it a close community with only a couple degrees of separation between holistic practitioners, yogis, nutritionists, therapists, energy workers, meditation guides, etc. Sheri and I were actually Facebook friends before meeting over coffee one day. I LOVE her blog and had been reading it for several months before realizing that she had moved to Birmingham from Atlanta. She's a wellness coach, meditation guide, Reiki master AND SHE DOES HAIR AT THE ONLY ORGANIC SALON IN BIRMINGHAM!
After having a long coffee and talking about all sorts of things, Sheri and Studio Red Salon invited me to experience their services at a generously discounted rate. (I share that detail in the spirit of full disclosure.) While the decor and clientele read a little older, the results I got were phenomenal and worthy of being called a Secret Source.
Here's the deal, the salon products have zero ammonia, zero parabens, are 100% vegan and the colors have no PPD, a seriously toxic chemical found in tons of hair products and cosmetics. What struck me immediately is that there was NO ODOR WHATSOEVER. Furthermore, once we got started, there was no tingling, burning, itching at any point in the entire experience before, during or after. WHOA.
I was super nervous about how the color would be and how I would like Sheri. I had this wave of anxiety come over me with the realization that I previously ahd only known this woman for a hot minute and I was trusting her with something really, really important to me, my hair. And let me tell you, Sheri was AWESOME. She totally put my mind at ease, recognizing how nervous I was and gently redirecting my thought pattern with some really awesome conversation about family, nutrition, wellness journeys and so much more. Let's be honest, a great hairstylist does great hair and great conversation.
Sheri's got it all.
I also want to mention the salon uses two product lines called Neuma and Soma. I have been using Giovanni shampoo and conditioner in an effort to eliminate chemicals (though I do still use some Oribe Dry Texturizing spray because, DUH), but Giovanni has really sucked. And it made me wonder if natural hair care products just suck in general. NEWS FLASH: Neuma products are amazing. They get my hair clean. They give me moisture and incredible body. There's no weird smells and no bad chemicals, and it may be another thing worthy of calling a Secret Source.
I mean, look at that. The cut is so good that she didn't even have to use a brush or curling iron to style it. This literally came from blow drying with her fingers. No burns, no blisters, no migraine. I walked out the door with a giant smile, my head a little higher with a great boost in confidence and one of the best cuts and colors I have ever had. At no expense to my health.
I highly, highly recommend Sheri on a lot of levels.
To book a consult or appointment, you can call Studio Red at 205.991.2099
Aug 10, 2015
Did you know that 90% of illnesses are linked to stress, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, psychological disorders, auto-immune disease, depression and more? Stress hormones are no joke! Your body and your brain can get stuck in a state of stress/distress and your immune system goes into overdrive and suddenly you're in health crisis.
I know. Because I've been there. Almost two years ago I had my first child via a difficult labor and c-section, contracted a bacterial superbug that shut down my organs, couldn't breastfeed and I was SO STRESSED. Even as I began to heal, the stress level just wasn't changing, and in turn, I wasn't completely getting better.
And then I picked up my yoga practice. When practiced regularly, yoga has been proven to decrease anxiety, improve your body's ability to heal, and it increases your overall well-being. Yoga was the missing piece of my body/mind/healing/wellness puzzle. Yoga gave (and still gives) me a safe place to just let it allllll gooooooo. I can get on my mat and tune into my breath and turn away from racing thoughts or searing pain. Yoga reconnects me to everything: my body, my mind, the universe around me, to God.
A year ago, I connected with Annie Damsky, owner of Villager Yoga and president of Sweet Om Alabama. She took me in as a student and a friend, empowering me with the tools to progress on my path and connecting me to the incredible yoga community here in Birmingham, Alabama.
A HUGE part of the yoga community here is Sweet Om Alabama, a nonprofit organization with the mission of cultivating health and wellbeing and bringing the healing qualities of yoga to people who lack access to it. Sweet Om Alabama currently has programs at Children's Hospital of Alabama, Pathways women's shelter, Alethia House, AIDS Alabama, East Lake United Methodist Church, St. Anne's Home and Yoga of Recovery.
As someone who has survived life threatening illness and the emotional side effects of that time in my life, I can attest that yoga is powerful, transformative and so important to make available to the people that need it.
So last night, Sweet Om Alabama and Athleta at the Summit invited some people to hang out after hours, try on Athleta's new collection for Fall, strike a pose (look on social media for #omyourpose!) and learn a little more about some exciting events coming up!
(My Warrior 1 is a little weak here. See how my right hip is higher than the other? They should be even! Proper alignment is super important to your yoga practice and prevents injuries!)
So what's going on? Global Mala 2015 is coming up SEPTEMBER 19th at Vulcan Park! This is such an incredible event that gathers over 300 people on top of Vulcan Park, overlooking the city of Birmingham to do 108 sun salutations in an effort of love and peace. And all around the world, on the same day, people will be doing this very thing with us!
It's a free event with an awesome DJ, incredible teachers leading, some really cool sponsors (including Athleta!) and all you have to do is show up in something comfortable. It's a beautiful experience that I really hope you'll share in with me!
Here's a photo from last year's Global Mala. It was such a perfect day!
As Sweet Om Alabama is a non-profit 501c3 organization, it depends on donations to keep these programs going, and 2016 has big plans for FIVE new programs and a scholarship program for organization personnel to become certified to teach yoga, thus carrying on the practice within their programs.
To donate, go here or attend any of these awesome upcoming community events...
TUESDAY AUGUST 18 5.00-10.00pm at ROJO: 10% of food and drink sales go to Sweet Om Alabama!
SATURDAY AUGUST 22 11.00am-2.00pm at WHOLE FOODS: "The Giving Grill," Whole Foods will be grilling outside! 100% proceeds will benefit Sweet Om Alabama. PLUS $2 raffle tickets for free yoga gear and accessories!
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 17 6.00pm- 9.00pm. GLOBAL MALA KICK-OFF CELEBRATION at TRIMTAB BREWERY! It's free and open to the public! Come out and meet the yogis from all over Birmingham, #omyourpose in a photo booth, eat and dance your booty off!
Sort of like this...
Feb 20, 2015
You guys. I am feeling so much burnout here right now. I've been working full steam in my new position that I am not really talking about much in this space right now. Duq and I are basically passing ships that pass off the baby between each of our work, and Tennessee is currently sitting beside me just straight up throwing fits over a banana. I've been feeling really private lately, trying to remember what real life was like before we had computers on our phones and three devices on us at all times. Before social media and perfect filters and, geez, before selfies.
I have been working hard, and in my free time I want to spend time with my family, cook delicious and healthy food, paint and read, do some yoga, meditate. It's been completely satisfying and fulfilling. This is an adjustment period.
But there's still cool stuff I need to tell you about.
1/ Rose quartz. It's been used for thousands of years for bringing about well-being, especially in your closest relationships (hello, married people!). It opens the heart chakra and can bring peace, forgiveness, love to situations. Hence it's the perfect material for a, um, personal product. I now introduce to you the Chakrub. (Please tell me you are putting two and two together here.)
2/ Jade Rollers. The ancient Chinese empresses used these beautiful jade objects to improve circulation, cleanse the lymphatic system and promote clear skin. This cool medicinal stone depuffs your face and gives you a totally health promoting massage with that little bit of luxury and mysticism that I think we all want to experience in our products. I can't wait to order one of these babies.
3/ @ihavethisthingwithfloors. This is my favorite Instagram account ever. It's all amazing patterned, mostly mosaic floors. And shoes. It's an amazing source of inspiration for me. And wanderlust.
Do y'all like posts like this? A few things that I just think are cool and that you might want to know about? You guys mean a lot to me. Have a great weekend.
Jan 19, 2015
If you know me, you know I am ALL ABOUT the essential oils. I was a very quick convert when I was nine months pregnant on bed rest for really scary blood pressure that just wouldn't come down. It was causing me such panic, making it so much worse. Doctors gave me sedatives and told me to go to my happy place and neither worked. A friend dropped off a little package for me and simply said, "Try it." It was tiny vials of Young Living "Valor" and "Peace and Calming." I happened to have a diffuser, put a couple drops in, a drop on the back of my neck and my blood pressure immediately returned to normal. I remember checking it with an electronic monitor three times in a row because I simply couldn't believe it.
After coming home with our first baby and all the new things we were suddenly facing: sleepless nights, fussy baby, spit up/poop/pee everywhere messes and later my major illness. We ordered the big Premium Starter Kit, dove in and have never looked back.
I particularly love Young Living's dedication and stringent practices in ensuring that their essential oils are pure and authentic, safe for use on your body, in your home and (if indicated as a supplement) can be used internally. We had briefly been using the Aura Cacia brand from Whole Foods, but once looking a little closer at the label...it says "fragrance" and "not for internal use." Read your labels closely.
So as a starting place for getting into essential oils, I particularly love this Everyday Oils collection (which comes in the Premium Starter Kit). Thieves is the miracle disinfectant; it's antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal. Stress Away calms my nerves when I just feel frayed (and smells AMAZING). PanAway has soothed pulled muscles after maybe pushing my body too hard. Frankincense is the best oil ever-- it's a holy oil. It antitumoral, immunostimulating, antidepressrant, muscle relaxing, increases spiritual awareness, promotes meditation, improves attitude and uplifts the spirit. I used it topically to help break up some internal scar tissue that built up after my C-section and was causing me serious pain. Lemon has incredible detoxifying properties and can be drank in a glass of water or used in a homemade cleaning product. Peppermint and lavender are total panaceas, helping with digestion, allergies, body temp regulation, burns and so, so much more. Melaleuca is tea tree oil and amazing for skin conditions. Joy is a beautiful blend of several precious oils that smells amazing, uplifts the spirit and promotes a really positive outlook on life. Purification is a blend to ward off insects (summer is coming!), get rid of stinky smells (animals or shoe funkiness)... and I think that may be the briefest run down of the oils ever. Ha.
Thieves is so cool. It was created from research absed on legends about a group of 15th century thieves who rubbed oils on themselves to avoid contracting the plague while they robbed the bodies of the dead and dying. When apprehended, the thieves were forced to tell what their secret was and disclosed the formula of herbs, spices and oils: clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus radiata and rosemary. It's highly antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-infectious. We diffuse it. We clean every surface in our house with it. We even brush our teeth with it. And amazingly, if we have started to feel a little under the weather, we diffuse it and have simultaneously improved. Just saying.
So my good friend Jenn and I put together a little Introduction to Oils 101 class and hosted a few ladies last week to get together, have some hors d'oeuvres and chat about the oil basics. Jenn set up this super cute little Citrus Bar with chilled water and options of Citrus Fresh, Jade Lemon and Tangerine to add some great flavor. I kind of want to do this at all of my parties now. (Always drink out of glass containers and straws when adding oils to your water!)
It wouldn't be a party in the South without a little extra hospitality with these Lavender Detox Bath Soaks we gave to guests as we said goodnight. Jenn whipped these amazingly luxurious soaks up in no time and has kindly shared the recipe here:
Lavender Detox Bath Soak
Combine one part Epsom salts and one part baking soda with six drops of Lavender oil for every 1/2 cup of ingredients. Add lavender buds for looks (available at your local health food market). Simply mix the ingredients well and store in an air tight container! Add to a warm to hot bath, stir and soak to your heart's content!
Jenn and I will be hosting another Introduction to Essential Oils 101 class in Birmingham on Thursday, February 12th. If you haven't yet experienced the amazing properties of essential oils, send me an email at email@example.com to get more details! If you're interested in getting any of the oils I've mentioned today, simply email me or go here and sign up as a member to get 24% off retail value using referral code 1720800!
Jan 7, 2015
If you've been following Rugged and Fancy for a little while, you know we have gradually been eliminating yucky chemicals from our lives: food, cleaning products and now we are working on cleaning up our personal products. I recently gave up perfumes in favor of a blend of therapeutic grade Young Living essential oils that I blended to my liking (I'll write more on that soon!).
So lately I had been noticing that the products I had been using to wash my hair and body in the shower were just really bothering me. The shampoo and conditioner, while it made my hair amazing, the scent was extremely synthetic, lasted for far too long and started making my head hurt. The body was never really made me feel clean, and I realized upon reading the ingredients it was FILLED with parabens. Not great stuff.
So I've been on the hunt for the good stuff. The natural stuff. The luxurious stuff. The stuff that invigorates and cleanses and makes me feel like a badass mamajama. (Hey, isn't that what we all really want in a product?)
Well I think I'm onto something with these three products...
1/ DR. BRONNER'S CITRUS ORANGE SOAP. You have probably heard about Dr. Bronner's. It's that miracle soap that is super natural and can be used for everything under the sun. And they've got those amazing, insane labels that could occupy your attention for about an hour in the shower. All that said, I have never liked the soaps that much. The peppermint, the tea tree, the almond, the lavender... I will be frank: they made my lady parts entirely too tingly. And I couldn't shave my legs well with them because I just prickled up immediately. And then I tried this Citrus Orange variety out of curiosity and a necessity for a healthy soap. AND IT IS AMAZING. It's the most refreshing scent, not too orangey, just fresh. And I actually feel totally clean after a shower, and that clean feeling LASTS.
2/ JOHN MASTERS EVENING PRIMROSE SHAMPOO FOR DRY HAIR. It's 70% organic and has lots of lovely nourishing oils in it. It smells like a total aphrodisiac. I LOVE it. You don't get a thick lather off of it, but with two shampoos my hair is totally clean after a week of no washing and lots of styling. It's pH balanced, sulfate free and gluten free (for what that's worth in a shampoo).
3/ JOHN MASTERS LAVENDER & AVOCADO INTENSIVE CONDITIONER. It's really hard to find a really great conditioner. I was on the Apple Cider Vinegar rinse for a while, but I got tired of the smell, the slippery shower floor and the cool water rinse. I want a creamy conditioner to slather on my hair, put in a bun to soak in and stand in a hot shower. Well this is it. It totally nourishes my kind of sadly damaged ends, detangles but doesn't make my hair flat or greasy. Hallelujah.
I think I am sticking with this combo for a while. They're all super cost efficient, too compared to the super popular and pricey big name organic companies. So do you have any natural product insider info? Comment below!
Jan 2, 2015
I have an endless fascination with Persian culture. I don't know why it is or exactly what it is, but it's definitely a thing for me. My dear friend Sheyda Mehrara is the daughter of two Persian immigrants. She has been to Iran. She reads Hafez and gets her Dad to write me notes in Farsi. So all her Persian-ness paired with her amazing personal style means that we are basically sisters. I begged her to share Persian beauty secrets with me... and here they are.
In the words of Sheyda Mehrara...
Long before the glossy posts and lists showcasing natural, simple products as beauty staples, there was my mom... and her mom... and her mom's mom. Basically, Persians were in on this secret long before the Internet made it chic and cheap to use honey yogurt on your face or sugar as a body scrub. It's no wonder why all the Persian women look a bit younger than their cultural counterparts.
Once upon a time, I was embarrassed to share these Persian beauty regimens, but then one day I realized the richness of my heritage and on a more shallow level, that the routines actually worked. There's nothing like getting back to your true roots.
1/ KISEH & SEFIDAB. So let's set up a scene. It's normal bath time for the little ones. You might imagine some of your favorite toys, perhaps the favorite Barbies with water-ruined hair or the empty cups that somehow become bath toys without fail. Well, from time to time, my mothe rwould get me in the tub and before I had a chance to reach for waterlogged Barbie, she would suddenly scrub me down with a kiseh, which is just the Persian word for scrubbing glove. This isn't a fluffy loofah, my friends. This is a traditional mitt that when paired with sefidab, a little white colored ball made of animal fat and naturally occurring minerals, is better than any spa routine I could pay (or charge) for. When you're showering, you rub the sefidab over the entire glove and then you scrub your body thoroughly. Yes, I would come out of the tub looking absolutely pink, but my skin was as smooth as my bottom. Unfortunately, this item proves a bit more difficult to get your hands on in the United States, but try your local Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food store. If they don't have it in stock, they know who to contact. It's like the Mafia. Trust me.
2/ ROSEWATER. A few months ago, I had gifted Morgan a bottle of rosewater with a grin. "You're welcome," I said, knowing that I had just given her a natural toner that didn't sting your skin. In fact, it has the most calming effect and the smell is divine. It's actually used in Muslim and Hindi religious ceremonies. You can even store some in a spray bottle as a refresher. Side note: it's great to have on hand for cooking or baking. It's particularly lovely in mixed drinks, especially the adult beverages. One of my favorite memories is when my mom would use it in pistachio rosewater gelato. The fragrant dessert was what I would beg my mother to make on birthdays and holidays.
3/ PUMICE STONE. Okay, so apparently we aren't exactly gentle with our bath time routines. But you get over that when you realize there's smooth skin under there. In Farsi, we call pumice stone "sang-e pah" ("sang" for stone, "pah" for foot). It's essentially a black volcanic rock we use to exfoliate our feet. The only downside is if you're ticklish, this could potentially be a torture device. Luckily these aren't hard to find. Just wander into your local health food store's beauty section. Here is my favorite.
4/ EGG YOLK. Why did we get so scared of eggs? Besides the fact that the cholesterol is good for you, it's one of the best hair treatments. My mother would just beat together two egg yolks with some grapeseed or olive oil, then apply it to my scalp. The result? Hair that would cause envy among friends and teachers.
5/ TURMERIC, LEMON, HONEY MASK. As soon as I started complaining about a pimple here or there, my mother claimed she had the perfect remedy. This was the peak of adolescence, and I wanted the hard core stuff. After spending hundreds of dollars on skin treatments to no avail, I gave in and tried mother's remedy. She mixed up some turmeric, lemon juice and honey to create a paste. The measurements totally did not matter. I applied it to my face and tried to ignore her gloating when I recognized that it actually worked. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Drop some sandalwood or tea tree oil in there for some extra kick.
Sheyda Mehrara is a recent graduate of Auburn University and its PR program. She's oddly curious, so naturally a career as a strategist and writer was in the stars. While that makes it tough to sit still for any lengthy amount of time, it's amazingly useful for seeking out stories. In between telling everyone about Eidé and then writing for Eidé, she's spends her time watching TED Talks and rewatching "The Graduate." She’s a certified Francophile and dreams of Gaspard Ulliel proposing with a box of Pierre Hermé macarons.
Dec 15, 2014
I am obsessed with exotic beauty secrets. Cleopatra wore what on her skin at night? Ancient Greeks made their skin soft how? Indian women have always done what? So I thought it would be cool to talk to some of my friends with exotic origins about beauty secrets passed down from their mothers. Today, my dear friend Tonia Trotter, wife, mother, art curator and gallerist is sharing her mother's Korean beauty secrets.
Tonia Trotter, 2014.
Suki Newman, 1979.
Since I can remember, I've known my mom is beautiful. Now, well into her fifties (though she won't let me specify exactly where in her 50s), she still turns heads with her petite figure, shiny black hair and dewy skin. More fox than tiger mom, her unique brand of beauty is surprisingly simple and goes back to her early days in Korea.
Here are her top three beauty rules:
1/ Garbage in, garbage out. This is a phrase my mom applies to all kinds of things, especially when she catches me watching any kind of Real Housewives show. But in terms of beauty, this means that you have to start with good nutrition. A multivitamin every day was the earliest beauty routine I was taught. Room temperature water and hot herbal teas to banish bloating, a diet low in sugar for clear skin and rich in veggies for healthy hair and nails and kimchi to flush out toxins. (Seriously, Google the benefits of consuming raw garlic. Bad for your love life maybe, but great for your health.) And she's right. Whenever I get into a funk where I'm not eating well, I notice it on my skin long before I notice it on my waistline.
2/ Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize! My mom's skin has the kind of glow you see in backstage photos of 19 year old models about to walk the runways of fashion week. Korea is known for its obsession with skincare: serums, oils, masks and moisturizers are key to that dewy look. Rose or Argan oil is my go-to when I need an extra boost of moisture. Staying hydrated is important as is treating your skin gently. My mom always taught me to care for my skin like a fine silk top. Don't overscrub. Don't wash with hot water or use products with harsh ingredients. Don't crank the heater in the winter; instead, use an electric blanket or heating pad. Your skin and pocketbook will thank you!
3/ Be a natural beauty. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup until I was a sophomore in high school. My mom said it would ruin my skin (and make me look like a tramp). My grandmother didn't allow my mom to wear makeup until she moved to the United States at the age of 19, and even then I bet my mom washed her face before taking pics to send back home to Korea. My grandmother only wore makeup on her wedding day and looked a good twenty years younger than her age for as long as I knew her. My mom rarely wears makeup today unless she's out and about. And she never ever wears powder. Still a facial virgin, my mom swears by regimens handed down from her older sisters who used rice water to brighten skin and cucumber slices layered all over the face, neck and eyes as a mash to depuff and hydrate.
And as my mother's daughter, here are two Korean beauty products I use:
Oct 15, 2014
I love okra. It reminds me of being a kid in the country, spending the night with my great great aunt Lib, picking apples from her tiny orchard, churning butter and frying up or pickling okra. We quilted, too. It was very Little House on the Prairie. Anyway, okra can be a vegetable of contention. I love it in all of its slimy glory. Duquette hates the sliminess. Fried okra? Well it often lacks any flavor and is usually breaded or fried, negating any nutritional value it once had. So here is my solution. And it's easy. BAKE IT!
WHAT YOU NEED:
-a lot of okra, it cooks down in size tremendously (try a couple of pounds). I used this really beautiful purple okra that they say is less slimy. However, making it this way it doesn't really matter.
WHAT YOU DO:
1/ Wash your okra ahead of time and lay out to fully dry on paper or cloth towels. If you allow the okra to dry completely, it won't be slimy. (You're welcome for the life saving tip there.)
2/ Preheat oven to 375.
3/ Slice okra in even pieces (like 3/4" pieces) and discard the stem tip and the tiny piece of pointed ends (that's preferential).
4/ Lightly coat your roasting pan with coconut oil. It has a higer flash point and doesn't burn off as easily. And I really love the way it adds a richness of flavor to foods.
5/ Place okra in an even layer on the roasting pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
6/ Bake for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how crunchy or crispy you want it. I prefer mine a lot crispier so I do mine for 45 minutes, stirring up the pieces about halfway through.
You can either serve it hot as a side item or allow the okra to cool and sprinkle over your favorite Fall salad with beets and candied pecans. It's also a great finger food snack for Paleo and gluten free people.
What do you do with okra? Let me know in the comments!
Oct 9, 2014
Being deep in the South, our warm months last a little longer and that means so do the flowers and herbs. Now that the temps are cooling, the leaves are falling and the people are finally sighing with sweet relief, it's time to harvest all the basil. And that means it's time to make pesto! My recipe for pesto is super easy, nut free and cow milk free.
WHAT YOU NEED:
-a lot of fresh basil
-heaping handful of fresh arugula
-a lot of good olive oil
-two to four cloves of fresh garlic
-a strong, hard sheep cheese, I use Manchego
WHAT YOU DO:
1/ Wash the basil stems, place on paper towels to absorb all that water. Pluck the basil leaves from the stems and place on a paper towel to further dry. I don't use the basil flowers in my pesto as I find them to be too bitter.
2/ Take the basil leaves and the heaping handful of arugula and chop coarsely just to give your blender a little break. Come on, my blender can start smelling funky if I work it too hard. Don't judge, it's just well loved, right?
3/ Take the coarse chopped basil and arugula and throw in the blender. Pour a few glugs of olive oil over the top, cover blender and begin to blend on low. If it looks like the leaves are getting stuck at the bottom and not blending well, pour in more olive oil, give a stir with a long wooden spoon. Replace the top of the blender and blend more.
4/ Toss in garlic cloves (without the papery outside, of course) and maybe a teaspoon of sea salt and shavings of your cheese. Total, I end up using about 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup of Manchego. I find that sea salt really just brings together all the flavors and binds them, but don't oversalt it.
5/ Blend more. You want it to look thick and slightly oily, like a paste with a really rich green color. It will smell and taste pungent and that's perfection! Put pesto in a tight jar. Use it in a reasonable amount of time refrigerated.
1/ Rice pasta with pesto sauce and chicken.
2/ Rice pasta with green peas/petit pois, garlic, shallot, chopped ham or lardons and pesto.
3/ Green eggs and ham, scrambled eggs with pesto, shallot and diced ham.
Sep 30, 2014
This year has brought so many changes in our home, most noted: having a baby and really changing our approach to health/wellness and food. So as someone who used to be a REALLY BAD COOK... I am pretty proud of how far I have come! While yeah, I have picked up a lot of skills out of trial and error and have honestly gotten to be a pretty good cook, I think good food is something that we can all achieve with just a little effort and guidance (and trial and error, too). And look at your time in your kitchen as a beautiful, peaceful time rather than a chore!
I love cooking a bunch of veggies on a Saturday or Sunday to have on hand for fresh, fast and super healthy meals. With the arrival of Fall comes the arrival of all the amazing squashes. I used to be really intimidated by the prospect of making my own squash because they're these large, hard, odd shaped things that seem like SO much effort to yield little food... I WAS WRONG. Yes, there's a little effort, but if you set aside the twenty minutes to prep a large amount and throw them in the oven, you'll have the most delicious sweet and savory treat to use in meals or snack on for the whole week!
WHAT YOU NEED:
-large roasting pan
-butternut squash (you can do one to three large ones on a pan)
-coarse sea salt
-as many cloves of garlic as you want (optional)
-fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
WHAT YOU DO:
1/ Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
2/ Wash any excess dirt off the outside of your squash. Cut off the stems on each end. This will make the squash stand up, carefully cut the squash lengthwise. Take a spoon and scoop out the seeds and fleshy bits. It's okay if there is a little fleshy bit left.
TIP: I find it easiest to have a plastic grocery bag beside me to scoop everything into and to throw the outside of the squash into once I cut it up. Easy cleanup makes better cooking experience, right?
3/ Take each half one at a time, slice into pieces down the length of the squash. Turn each slice on its side and slice off the outside of the squash. Try to maintain as much of the actual squash in this process- that's your food! But don't spend much time in the precision of this. You're not peeling it, just cutting off the outside and moving on!
4/ Now you've got these large wedges of squash, cut them into smaller, even pieces. If they're about an inch to two inches and relatively uniform in size, they'll roast evenly.
5/ Take your roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Optionally, you can crush and roughly chop some garlic cloves to spread on the pan. It can add a little depth that is nice if you like garlic. Spread the squash out on the pan. Pieces will touch and overlap and that's fine if it's evenly distributed. If you want to throw some sprigs of fresh thyme on top, go for it. Generously sprinkle coarse salt and grind pepper across the squash. If you want a softer squash at the end, drizzle a very small amount of olive oil over the top of the pan. If you like a denser, almost crispy outer, leave off this extra oil.
TIP: It's always better to start with a more conservative amount of salt because you can always add more. About halfway through roasting, you can taste a sprinkle a little more if needed.
6/ Stick pan on the middle rack of your oven and bake for one hour. Halfway through cooking, take a spatula and move squash around a little to evenly distribute flavor. Taste a piece and add salt, pepper or thyme if needed. Remove from oven and enjoy!
I prefer a firmer and crispy final result, so next time I will leave off the drizzle of olive oil on top. So yours may look dryer than this if that's your preference too.
- Use as a side item, duh.
- Mash it up as a potato substitute and serve with skirt steak, cilantro and a little bit of lime.
- Throw it in a hot iron skillet with some brussel sprouts and lardons or bacon, top with a fried egg.
-Snack on it all day.
Sep 22, 2014
As some of you know I have partnered with Villager Yoga this month to experience a month of unlimited yoga at their studio. So here's my first week update. I was very intentional in setting realistic goals that are more about my health and well being than reaching fitness milestones. And I think a yoga practice is about how well your mind, body and spirit are connecting. Let me just say, this week has rocked my world.
So I have attended three classes-- Yoga for Healing, Sacred Flow and Hatha Flow in studio. Yoga for Healing is so great for someone with injuries, chronic pain or someone who may feel some trepidation in starting out yoga. The room (with no mirrors!) is dim and cool with soothing music as you move through gentle to deep stretches and focus on your breath to release some of the physical or emotional tension. I felt good starting here. I haven't been able to move my body due to pregnancy or post partum complications in basically a year and a half. I left class without feeling like I had overdone it, and to be honest, I really felt like that first low impact class got my energy flowing again and started working on cleansing my lymphatic system (your lymphatic system can only eliminate toxins with movement and I have felt totally clogged up, sickly, lethargic).
Sacred Flow. Whoa. This class is really rooted in breath, meditation and movement to deepen those experiences. I know that yoga and meditation can sound intimidating. These are very intimate and vulnerable places to go with your emotions and your mind. Man, let that stuff go! I've really enjoyed that Villager Yoga is a place where I don't feel self-conscious. I don't feel like anyone is trying to "outpose" anyone else. And I don't worry about looking silly scrunching up my face and letting out a lion's breath with my eyes and mouth wide open with my tongue stuck out as far as possible. This class really realigned me with myself, something that has been SO OUT OF WHACK. This is the class for the person who wants to feel like him/herself again. The person who needs tools to quieten the mind, deal with stress better and is looking for a deep spiritual realignment.
Hatha Flow. Annie (Villager Yoga owner and instructor) modified the class to be a little more gentle for a small Friday morning class while maintaining a steady movement and pace through pose sequences (typical of classes called "flow"). I was a little nervous to see how well I could follow along in a flow class, since I was only three days into picking up a long dormant yoga practice and without having any range of motion or endurance in about a year. I shocked myself. While still dropping into resting child's pose a couple times, I never felt exhausted or like I was overdoing it. I broke a sweat while maintaining steady breathing and felt like I worked out some pent up emotions while doing warrior poses and sun salutations. And after class, Annie worked with me on my plank and downward dog so I would get the most out of my poses without injury. I love that!
Speaking of sun salutations... Saturday was a really cool event called Global Mala, hosted by Sweet Om Alabama and Villager Yoga at Vulcan Park, overlooking the beautiful Birmingham skyline. 108 sun salutations as people focus on prayer and meditation for peace. Over 200 people came to do this together. I anticipated that my body would only allow me to do a handful of sun salutation sequences before giving out, which I was totally okay with. I wanted to stand there and do as many as possible to celebrate this new part of my journey that I am on, to thank God for healing my body and allowing me to be in the place that I am and to focus my energy on something so beautiful and positive. While it doesn't matter how many I did or didn't complete, I think it stands as a testimony of how far your body can come in only a little amount of time- I completed somewhere over sixty sun salutations when I thought I could only do five.
This was really emotional for me because only five months ago I was fighting a deadly infection and didn't know if I would make it or not. And to feel the peace of mind in the this past week of yoga, it's priceless. Our whole home feels more peaceful and positive. My husband and I are communicating better than ever. My seven month old son has such a better disposition because he can feel the energy that comes from me. He can sense that I am a happier and more peaceful mama. I can't wait to see how this week of yoga plays out for me! Here are some photos from Global Mala, and be sure to check out Villager Yoga to see what might work for you!
That's me in the middle of the photo with a long sleeve shirt on.
You know that there is going to be tie dye and hula hoops at a thing like this!
About 85 sun salutations deep, lots of meditation breaks.
Tennessee and Duq came and hung out in the grass. They both had a blast!
This is my friend Faye Claire, who I have watched totally transform her life, body and spirit in becoming a yoga instructor. Her journey definitely influenced me stepping out and taking my own. Check her out here.
Sep 16, 2014
I am so excited about this. I am partnering with Villager Yoga for a month of unlimited classes to experience, explore and to write about here and on my Instagram. Many readers know how sick I got after having Tennessee in February and what a physical and emotional setback the bacterial infection was for me. Through lifestyle change, including a very strict dietary regimen, vitamins and Young Living essential oils and regular chiropractic adjustments, I can say that I am doing SO SO SOOOOOOOOO much better. I believe our health can be measured by how well our bodies and minds respond to stress, and I think there is one last piece missing in my jigsaw puzzle of a health regimen. Exercise.
I tried to do some yoga a few months ago and my body was just not ready for it yet, especially any sort of "flow" that has repeated poses at a pace that made my post partum body just hurt. And let me say, several years ago I had really gotten into a practice of yoga, so I can firsthand speak to the benefits of implementing a practice-- the way it stills the mind, grows your personal discipline in life, and yeah, tones the body.
So physically this is where I am right now--I need the quietness of mind and some meditation BIG TIME. I am a new mom. I am a wife. I am a business owner and an artist. I need the tools to slow it all down and really, honestly focus on my breath and calmness. I want to rebuild my physical strength, especially to my core since having it cut in half with an emergency c-section. Let me be clear, I am setting no goals for weight loss or endurance milestones because that's not what this or what yoga is about. I want to work on building more strength than I have in my body as part of my journey to wellness.
I'm thrilled to partner with Villager Yoga as it's really a family friendly environment and provides a safe, super chill environment for all sorts of people to come in and experience yoga. There aren't any mirrors so you're not competing with anyone (or yourself). They have awesome classes for kids and families (including baby sign language, that I am so excited about!). They have childcare two mornings a week so you don't have an excuse to miss, or maybe that's just the right reason to attend! Ha.
You can check out their full range of classes, here. And be sure to check back here on Rugged and Fancy as I get my yoga journey started, follow my Instagram to see what classes I am doing and my progress and check out Villager Yoga's Instagram where they announce really exciting happenings and give great visual advice on poses!
And it's National Yoga Month, too! So come to a class, and if you see me there please say hello!