Saturday, August 27, 2016

whole30 and hypertension

i haven't talked about it much on my blog, but ever since my pregnancy last summer with eli, i have struggled with hypertension. my blood pressure presented high at my first midwives appointment, and after everything was said and done, it never returned to normal like every doctor and specialist assumed it would. fast forward a year and i am still taking blood pressure medication every day to keep my numbers under control, i still have countless appointments each month, and i'm still trying anything and everything, grasping at every straw to try and correct things. it's frustrating and disheartening, especially not knowing why, but ultimately, i remain hopeful that it is just another passing phase. eventually.

i have tried a lot of different things in hopes they would help my hypertension- herbal tinctures, homeopathic remedies, meditation, mindfulness, acupuncture, essential oils, exercise, drinking more water, counselling, emotional freedome techinique (also known as tapping)...  but for some reason, i had always felt some resistance to changing the way i eat. perhaps its because i kid myself into thinking i eat relatively well, perhaps its because i really LOVE bread and beer and cheese and treats, but ultimately, i think it just took a bit of an 'ah-ha!' moment to make me realize that all my late night snacking and endless 'because i deserve it!' sweets, had to be linked to bigger things happening in my body.

i believe albert einstein said it best - 'the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.'

a few years ago, i did the elimination diet, made famous by gwyneth paltrow and her cookbook 'its all good' (one of my all time favouites- worth checking out if you haven't already.) the general rules with the elimination diet are similar to a lot of cleanses out there- no grains, no diary, no sugar or soy, no chemicals or processed food of any kind- the elimination diet goes a bit further, adding in no nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant...) no high sugar fruits (bananas, strawberries, grapes...), no red meat... so in the end, lots and lots of vegetables, a bit of fruit, and lean proteins. never in my life had i felt so bad (sugar and caffeine detox is no joke- so much so that i never went back to caffeine after completing this cleanse) but them SO DAMN GOOD! when the three weeks were complete, i felt like a whole new person. never in my life had i felt so amazing!

when i mentioned my need for a food revolution to my friend steph, she suggested whole30. its a bit of a trendy cleanse right now, and ultimately not much different than many of the other cleanses out there. where GP's elimination diet allows brown rice, whole30 gives you eggs. i cant decide which is better, but i'm thinking it might be eggs. also, because whole30 is so popular, there are ENDLESS resources and recipes online- a wonderful thing to be able to access when food becomes the focus of your entire world for 30 days.

so- june 1, steph, myself, and my friend katie started whole30. it was not all rainbows and butterflies like i tricked myself into thinking it might be (funny how we forget every other cleanse we have ever done, and suddenly think this one will be a cake walk.) but it also wasn't totally awful either. a good moderately challenging/rewarding cleanse. the hardest part for me was definitely all the meat. living with two vegetarians and having been a vegetarian for a good portion of my young adult life, i don't typically cook meat at home and kind of feel like i missed that window in life where you learn how to properly prepare meat. this cleanse definitely forced me beyond my comfort zone and left me feeling a little full of meat when all was said and done.

going forward, my hope is to continue eating a slightly more relaxed version of this cleanse during the weekdays (i guess perhaps paleo is a good descriptor for it...) and save any more indulgent treats or meals for the weekends. to be honest, i didn't end this cleanse feeling like a new person, i didn't suddenly have lots of extra energy or whiter whites of my eyes (something that did actually happen after my last cleanse). but my clothes all fit a little bit better, i have far fewer headaches (a side effect of my medication that nothing has seemed to help before this...) and i haven't been feeling 'crappy'- something that i didnt even realized had been an ongoing issue for me pre-cleanse. but perhaps most importantly, my blood pressure has started to come down. upwards of 20 points on my top number and 5-10 on my lower number, and for me, that is HUGE.

so- if you are looking for a way to help lower your blood pressure, or are interesting in trying whole30 for a good old fashioned eating reset, i would definitely recommend giving it a go. i think anytime we dedicate time and energy into eating well- cooking from scratch, incorporating more vegetables, eliminating all the little snacky things we habitually put in our mouths - that its always a good a thing. so with that in mind, i thought i would share a couple things thats were my absolute must haves to get through whole30, or just a few really awesome things to incorporate to your everyday cleaner eating habits.

coconut aminos - its a bit like a soy sauce, only sweeter. this stuff is made from coconut sap and heavenly if you fry it up a few vegetables (broccoli has never tasted so good!) and was really helpful during that first week when sugar and sweets is literally all your brain can think about.

a really good mustard - i have always loved mustard (when i was vegan in my teenage years, i would put it on pasta or boiled potatoes instead of butter. ew.) but a good mustard is perfect for adding to meat or veggies just to give it a little pop of flavour. yellow prepared mustard is usually fine, just be careful and read the ingredients for any dijon to ensure there is no added sugars.

vegetable spiralizer - this little gadget will change your life. i make zucchini noodles at least twice a week now, and actually don't notice a difference between them and regular pasta noodles (i know you don't believe me, i didnt believe me either, but honestly. try it. it will blow your mind!) there is also something so incredibly satisfying about eating an entire bowl of vegetables for dinner.

ghee or clarified butter - this one was non negotiable for me- if you do whole30 and find yourself struggling, potatoes with ghee and salt and pepper are literally the magic cure to get you through. i also liked to cook my eggs in it and at add a little to steamed veggies if i felt like they needed it. easy enough to make your own, (as its really expensive to buy in canada)...

mayo - again, easy to make a whole30 compliant version here, but an awesome addition to salad dressing and sauces that need a creamier feel. (i also loved whipping up egg salad for lunch- delicious on lettuce wraps)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

a few of my favourite things- skin care edition

i have recently fallen hard into the world of all that is youtube. yes, i realize i'm super late to the party, but i guess i just figured i had enough other online things to waste my time with. ;)

some of the videos i have really enjoyed are of people sharing their favourite, tried, tested and true beauty products. obviously cosmetics can be expensive, which can make trying new things a cost prohibitive risk, so being able to hear other peoples honest experiences before you venture out to try something new is awesome!

so i figured why not share a few of my favourite things with all of you?

these six items are what i use most days- my trusty 'skincare regime' if you will (insert silly-face emoji here). all products i wholeheartedly LOVE, would never replace and simply could not live without.

|| one || rocky mountain soap company - bamboo skin polish
this company is so fantastic! all of their products are free of any harsh toxins, chemicals, or artificial fragrances and are each lovingly and ethically handmade in canmore, alberta. this is my second bottle of their skin polish- the first time i tried the coconut vanilla scent which i really liked, but always felt like it needed a little more grit to it. so more recently, i decided to try the bamboo scent, and although it is marketed for normal to oily complexions (something my ultra dry skin is not) i LOVE the course grit of bamboo version. you can REALLY feel it sloughing off that dry layer of skin, and it smells amazing! my first bottle of this product lasted me well over a year, so in addition to being an awesome face wash, the value is incredible!

|| two || frank body scrub
this body scrub is made from coffee beans, almonds and essential oils and is so nice! waking you up from the outside in, franks scrubs away dry, flaky skin and targets pesky skin conditions like cellulite, stretch marks, eczema, acne and psoriasis. i tend to spread out how often i use this product as 1) its a little on the pricey side and 2) i don't want that deep scrub of my skin all the time, but its a really awesome treat before a special night out, after a few too many days in the sun, or on a saturday night in when you have some extra time to take a super long shower.

|| three || thayers rose petal which hazel toner
i'm a huge fan of toners and absolutely love this one! this product is completely natural and works to moisturize, soothe, reduce redness, and balance the PH of your skin after washing it (which truthfully, i don't know why thats important, but it works and i dig it). the bottle also claims to make you 'look 10 years younger instantly' so who am i to argue with that? apply to a freshly washed face before your moisturizer goes on and watch the magic happen. (they also make lots of other scents if rose isn't your jam. this product is also AH-MAZING to use if you have little ones with diaper rash- soothes, reduces redness, and starts the healing process right away without any harsh chemicals.)

|| four || wibi moisturizing lotion
as you can maybe tell, i tend to lean toward more natural products in most areas of my life, but this product is not that. that being said, my mom has used this moisturizer since she was 16. i have used it since i was 16, and NOTHING has ever come close to being as incredible as wibi. i literally have tried dozens and dozens of other products trying to find a more natural alternative, but keep coming back to this my favourite. i will add that you CAN NOT find this lotion in stores anymore- once a year my mom and i stock up and order a few bottles off ebay or amazon - usually enough to get us through at least a year. but truly, this lotion is worth every struggle, hassle, shipping cost and chemical exposure. it's THAT awesome.

|| five || doterra frankincense oil
they call frankincense oil magic in a bottle, because it is literally just that. it can be used to help relieve chronic stress and anxiety, reduce pain and inflammation, boost immunity and even fight cancer. but my favourite (totally superficial) benefit is that it is a natural anti-aging and wrinkle fighter! i add a couple drops of frankincense to my lotion above, mix it together and rub it all over my face and neck. (perhaps the cancer-fighting benefits of the oil mitigate some of the chemical components of my lotion? heres hoping.) but i can honestly say i have noticed a serious reduction in the size and depth of some of the fine lines and little scars on my face since i started using this oil a year ago. if you only take one thing from this entire blog post, let it be to get yourself a bottle of frankincense oil!

|| six || kiehl's creamy eye treatment
i go back and forth between a few different eye creams but this one is good and one i continually come back to. once again, this isn't the best product from a natural ingredients standpoint (i try to make a point of not buying products that aren't transparent about their ingredients- listing ALL of their ingredients on the packaging and their website is important, and something kiehl's is not great at.) and i do sub it out with this organic eye cream, but i really love the smoothness of this product and how well it keeps my eyes moisturized without making them itchy or heavy feeling. i have struggled with exzema my whole life, and one area that tends to always be sensitive and excessively dry is around my eyes. keeping them really well moisturized stops an eczema out break before it begins, so this is an important product for me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

hand-shaped ring dish diy

a few months ago, i was searching the depths of the internet for something special that finn could make for jeff's mom for her birthday. it's always a struggle to find that right mix of sweet, sentimental, and somewhat purposeful (that last one often gets looked over simply because there are not many useful things that small children are capable of making) - but this was one that i thought was worth sharing.

we used this tutorial and made hand-shaped ring dishes and were really pleased with the end result. it's a super simple activity, and not all that time consuming (so just perfect for limited attention spans). it was also quite cost effective- a package of air dry clay is only a few dollars and would easily make several ring dishes. i believe i may have even seen similar clay in the craft section at the dollar store. (though don't hold me to that. i'm not a huge dollar store shopper, so i get instantly overwhelmed when i go in those places and lose all sense of brain function. ;) )

we tried a couple variations of this project- my favourite being the one shown here, plain white clay (not painted or decorated in any way, which could be a fun addition to this project). but we also made one using oven baked clay (fimo or the like) in various shades of greens and yellows and used a marbling technique shared over on a beautiful mess blog. the end result of this version was really cute and little bit more fun visually than the plane white clay.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

move your feet - by finn thorburn

our dear friend kelsy norman and his super sweet gf, lourdes, came to visit us a few weeks ago. while here, finn and kesly wrote and filmed a song together. the result is way too cute.

thanks kels xo

Monday, June 13, 2016

lighthouse park

this past weekend, we spent a beautiful sunny sunday hiking around lighthouse park. after an entire week of being cooped up with finn and his chicken pox, a little forest bathing, vitamin d and salty sea air was exactly what each of us needed. if you are in or around the vancouver area, lighthouse park is worth the trek every single time.

Monday, June 6, 2016

thai coconut mussels

one thing i have forever LOVED is mussels. boiled in any kind of broth and served pipping hot with fries or crusty bread on the side... heavenly!

until today, i had never made mussels at home. the process, although seemingly simple, always felt too advanced for me. but when i was at the grocery store the other day and saw fresh mussels on sale, i couldn't resist.

i assure you, prepping and cooking mussels is arguable one of the simplest things i have done. the recipe i used was borrowed from the how sweet it is blog and includes directions on how to quickly clean and prep your mussels before cooking. a process that took me no more than 5 minutes.

if mussels aren't really your thing, i think this broth would be incredible with shredded chicken, shrimp, scallops or crab meat... or a combination of a few of those things. it would also be deliciously satisfying all on its own or filled with wilted greens for a vegetarian option.

thai coconut mussels
ever so slightly modified from how sweet it is

:: ingredients ::
2 pounds mussels (i only used one pound, but still made the entire broth recipe so i would have extra for sipping the next day)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons red curry paste
a sprinkling of chilli flakes (optional if you like a bit of extra heat)
1 large (400ml) can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock (i used chicken bone broth as its what i had on hand)
2 green onions, sliced
baguette or bread for serving (or fries!)

:: directions ::
keep the mussels refrigerated until you're ready to use. once ready, place them in a large bowl of ice cold water. scrub the outsides of the mussels and remove the string (or "beard") by pulling it out. discard any mussels that have opened already. keep the mussels in the ice water.

heat a large heavy pot over medium heat and add the butter. once it's melted, stir in the onions, garlic, salt and pepper. stir and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. stir in the curry paste and chilli flakes (if using) and continue to stir until it's distributed throughout the entire pan of onions. cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and stock, stirring until it's smooth. bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring continuously. reduce the heat to medium low. add the mussels and toss. cover the pot and cook just until the mussels open, about 5 to 6 minutes. garnish with the sliced green onions. stir the mussels well so the broth makes it into the shells. serve immediately with baguettes or fries.

enjoy! xx

Saturday, May 14, 2016

art + alexander

as you may have noticed, my sweet friend jill update my blog banner with her gorgeous calligraphy, and i couldn't be more excited!

her company, art + alexander offers bespoke wedding invitations, custom design, calligraphy and hand-lettering- her talent oozes from every single thing she creates and her creativity constantly amazes me. i was so fortunate to get to spend some time working with jill these past few months, helping her to rework and update her very beautiful website. have a peek and swoon over all her lovely projects if you are so inclined!
Art + Alexander