Signing off for 2016

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I am rather fond of Old Year’s reflections. 2016, by most standards, was not exactly a stellar year. But it did provide some valuable lessons.

I discovered Tai Chi this year. Well, “discovered” may not be the right word for it… but I tried it and liked it and have made it a part of my life (though I don’t do it as often as I should).

If you’re not sure what Tai Chi is (and no, it’s not my dyslexic version Chai Tea – I discovered that one many years ago), it’s often in the background in movies or tv shows… a bunch of elderly people (usually Chinese) doing kung-fu-like moves in slow motion in a park at dawn.

And while it is an excellent form of exercise for the elderly… young people can do it too!!!!  And even those of us who are slightly passed young but not yet elderly. I find that it has done wonders for my stress and anxiety.

The slow deliberate movements paired with deep breathing improves my emotional well being by lowering stress, and improves my physical well being with increased flexibility and balance. The low impact exercise is perfect to do right before going to bed.

I had an important breakthrough this year in my professional life. Know and acknowledge your own strengths and then approach every situation from a position of confidence. This has sort of become my mantra and has really helped me in successfully transitioning from an “employee” to a self-employed entrepreneur.

Working from home has had its challenges, not the least of which is my lack of housekeeping skills. Despite the chaos of my personal life, I have always managed to maintain a semblance of order and organization in my place of work.

When my place of work is my living room, or bedroom or on rare occasions – my actual home office – my personal chaos interferes with my professional accomplishments. So, I have had to develop some better habits and am working toward decluttering my home.

I say working toward because I am far from there at this point. But I have made progress. My ultimate goal is to “have a place for everything”. At the moment, I still have too much STUFF for everything to be put in its place. I am working on throwing away or giving away all the things that take up space in my home but bring no real value to it or to me.

This isn’t an easy process for a clutter bug like myself and I suspect it will take some time for me to get there. But I am hopeful that by the end of the upcoming year, I will have a place for everything in my home and everything will be in its place! In the meantime, I am working on developing the habit of returning items that DO have a place to their respective home whenever they have wandered off. 🙂

Small changes add up and can make a cumulative effect that is truly life changing.

As the new year begins, I hope that this will be the best year yet! I never want the best of my life to be in my past. I really believe that I can continue to better myself, continue to find beauty in this world, continue to discover new depths to existing friendships, continue to meet new people who challenge and uplift me, continue to learn to love more deeply, continue to appreciate more fully, continue to grow and learn and evolve.



Products I love! (in my effort to move away from chemicals toward more natural alternatives)

I don’t promote products here because I’m paid to, in fact, these companies have no idea that I chose to write about how great I think they are. The reason I’m doing this blog is just because I happened to come across some pretty cool stuff and some of them are also made by really cool companies that align with my some of my own philosophies. As a consumer, I think it is really important to “vote” with your dollars. As the saying goes, money talks!

So the products in this blog all have some things in common. They are products that I have turned to as I have made a conscious effort to turn away from chemicals and synthetic materials as much as possible. A- I have a lot of allergies and want to reduce the amount of chemical fragrances in my home. And B – I would like to use products that have less of a negative impact on the environment.

Some of these products are relatively expensive (compared to their conventional counterparts) and that is why I wanted to offer my honest opinion, because I really do believe they are worth the extra expense.

So, here we go!

Bee’s Wrap

Love this stuff! I would like to say that it has completely replaced plastic wrap in my kitchen, but it hasn’t. But it has reduced my use of plastic wrap significantly!

Bee’s Wrap is basically a cloth that is pliable, washable, reusable and completely natural. It’s made from organic cotton, bee’s wax, tree resin and jojoba oil. It’s sustainable, it’s compostable and it’s made in the US by a company owned, founded and operated by women.

The wraps are beautiful, they have a great natural scent to them, and you will find all kinds of ways to put them to use in the kitchen. They make really great toppers for all those bowls you have without a matching lid to go with them!

I have used them to cover a pitcher of tea, wrap up a chunk of cheese, wrap leftover homemade bread, wrap sandwiches, top storage bows, cover a casserole, and more.

When I first started buying them, they were only available on their website, today they are now available at over 700 stores around the world. I suggest starting out with one of their 3 packs of assorted sizes ($18), so you can figure out which size you will have the most use for.

The scent is pretty strong at first, but it does calm down over time. And they will last for years. Don’t use them to wrap raw meats or greasy items like fried chicken.

Friendsheep Balls

img_6536Yes, you read that right. It says “Friendsheep Balls”. This is a product that I have been using for about a month. Friendsheep Balls… aside from being fun to say… are balls made from sheep’s wool that you can use in your dryer in place of dryer sheets.

Having the six balls in the dryer helps clothes dry faster and actually does keep them soft. If you want to add some fragrance, you can drop some of your favorite essential oils on the Friendsheep Balls every few drying cycles.

Plus, they make doing laundry just a little more fun… look at those cute faces! They have gone through multiple cycles and are still very tight with no pilling of the wool (The fuzzies that you see in the photo is lint and such that they pick up from the clothing.)

I really like this product and see it as an allergy reducer and money-saver over the long run. I also REALLY like this company. Friendsheep makes sustainable wool products from organic New Zealand wool. The balls are handmade for fair trade wages in Nepal, providing a much-needed source of income for primarily women in Nepal. You can watch a short video on how this product is made here.

Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag

Love, love, love this product. Need fresher air in your home? There is nothing simpler than purchasing a Moso bag and plopping it down where you need it the most. Done.

I turned to Moso because I discovered that my beloved Febreeze® in Gain® scent was aggravating my allergies. What to do? I have three dogs in my home… life without air fresheners just did not seem possible.

So, I did some searches on my favorite shopping site (Amazon) and this dumb little bag of img_6676charcoal pops up. And I thought… yeah sure… that’s really going to help freshen the air in my home (please note the sarcasm).

But I read some of the reviews and started to think that maybe there was something to it. So, I decided to risk $19.95 for two 500 gram sized bags. This is the size recommended for up to 250 square feet. (On the product website, you only get one bag that size for that price.)

These bags are awesome!!! I kid you not. They claim to remove toxins, humidity, bacteria, allergens and odors from the air. I can vouch for the odors and possibly the allergens, but most definitely the odors! I had a really, really stinky fridge a couple weeks ago that I knew I wasn’t going to get to for a day or two and I was literally having to hold my breath when I opened the door to get something out of it. (I know, I should be ashamed to admit that.) And then I remembered my bags!

I always keep one on the kitchen counter and one in the bathroom where they do a great job of quickly absorbing unpleasant odors. So, I popped one of them in the fridge and the next time I opened the door (less than an hour later) the smell was completely gone. Even though I knew they worked well, I was still amazed at how quickly and effectively that stupid little bag of charcoal had worked.

They are made from sustainable bamboo charcoal that comes from China. The company is located here in the US  but the product is made in China. The company’s mission is “to provide a safe, sustainable, and effective air purifier that is healthy for people, pets, and the planet.”

If I still had cats in my house, one of those bags would be sitting on the litter box! They also sell them in sizes to fit inside sneakers or keep in the fridge. They’d be great for a locker, gym bag, car, basement… any place that is damp or stinky-prone.

Speaking of places that are damp and stinky-prone….Now, on to items of a much more personal nature.

Primal Pit Paste

Yeah, I know, the name isn’t dainty. It is, however, an effective deodorant. IF you stick with it through the super not-so-fun detox period.

img_6667Ok, so here is where it gets really personal. I switched from my clinical strength antiperspirant to natural deodorant because I was beginning to develop swollen lymph nodes under my arms that were very tender to the touch. Having read a lot of pretty convincing research on the ill-effects of antiperspirants, I decided to take the plunge.

It wasn’t pretty (and it didn’t smell that great either). As they explain in some detail on their website, if you have been using an antiperspirant for years, as I had, you can expect to experience a detox period when you switch to using only a deodorant.

I won’t go into all the specifics, but basically the antiperspirant had been doing a great job, it kept me from perspiring under my arms. Period. I stayed completely dry. But here’s the thing, our bodies need to perspire. It’s a pretty important part of the excretory system and I wasn’t allowing my armpits to excrete anything!

So, let’s just say that once they are freed up to begin excreting, they excrete! The website says this process can last up to a few weeks. I’ll be honest, this process lasted a whole lot longer for me. I would say that it was probably 6 months before my pits calmed down. If I wasn’t working from home, I’m not sure I would have lasted long enough to reach a natural equilibrium.

As you go through the detox process, you can experience excessive sweating (wetness), some pretty powerful odors, redness and itching. I personally never experienced any itching or discomfort, but the rest of it in spades! Now that things have settled down (I have been using Primal Pit Paste for more than a year), I certainly sweat more than I did with an antiperspirant (because now I actually sweat), but not excessively. The odor is now under the control of the deodorant. And the redness has gone away. Happy pits, happy me!

I love that this product is all natural, contains no harmful products or side-effects and does the job it’s made to do. The company is here in the US and was started by a mom who just wanted to make safer products for her family to use. When my jars are empty, I reuse them for all sorts of my own homemade creams and remedies! 🙂 In addition to the pit paste, I also really love the Primal Pucker Paste (lip balm) – Chai is my favorite.

Ok, so now we get really personal! I suggest that males who are squeamish around even the words, “feminine hygiene products” just stop reading right now.

Lola tampons

I’ll keep it short and simple. It’s a new company created by women. The products are madeimg_6674 with organic cotton and no synthetic ingredients (unlike pretty much all other tampons on the market in the US, which I didn’t know until I started looking at the packaging – I mean who looks at an ingredient list for tampons???). They are made in Europe, because women there have had access to natural products for a long time, so they know how to make them!

It’s a subscription service. So the product arrives at your door, discreetly packaged. You set the schedule for delivery and you create your own custom mix of light, regular and super that will come in each box.

The cost is slightly higher than Playtex (my previous brand), but it’s not exorbitant. I pay $18.00 per shipment (they ship 2 boxes at a time), my shipment schedule is once every two months. With 18 tampons per box, they come out to 50 cents each, and are shipped to your door.

This is a new product for me, I have only received one shipment to date. But I have been happy with it. The truth is, when it comes to the product design itself, there are things about Playtex that I preferred. I would compare the Lola brand more closely to Tampax. But for me, the fact that these are without chemical additives far outweighs any slight advantage to product design that I feel Playtex has.

The bottom line is, Lola tampons work and I can feel better about using them. Not just because I’m putting fewer chemicals in my body, but because the organic cotton also puts fewer chemicals in the earth. And I just really like supporting smaller companies, woman-owned companies (especially for female products) and companies that have a conscience and want to produce things that are good in a manner that is good.

Christmas in the South

I have spent most of my Christmases either in the southern states here in the US or in Mexico, so a cold Christmas, let alone a “white Christmas” have been pretty unusual for me. Even so, it just doesn’t feel right when it’s 70 degrees for the holidays.

But that’s just the way things are here in South Georgia. So, one has to rely on other indicators to help get into the holiday spirit!

Small town Georgia begins celebrating the Christmas season as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers are put away. Lights, holiday flags and banners are put on display on city streets and public spaces.  The first two weekends of December brings about a plethora of parades, festivals and markets… every town has their own traditions.

Georgia Southern’s “Sweetheart Circle” and TMT Farms in Statesboro, Guido Gardens in Metter and the Botanical Garden in Savannah become favorite nighttime destinations to see the lights.

In the “Fruitcake Capital of the World”, Claxton, the production and shipping of one of the season’s most popular / unpopular treats? kicks into high gear.

Most importantly, friends and families gather together, traditions are continued, communities are strengthened and an overall spirit of merriment and kindness ensues!

One of my new favorite seasonal activities in the area is a production called The Journey that is put on every few years by a church based in Savannah. The event draws tens of thousands of visitors and takes thousands of volunteers to produce.

The Journey takes visitors through an interactive experience which includes a Christmas music concert and a trip to Bethlehem. The trip involves getting hassled by Roman guards, up-close encounters with camels, a walk through Bethlehem’s marketplace and a visit to the manger.

For me, I like to put up my Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving… I enjoy the warm, festive glow of the lights and the tree gets adorned with ornaments that are each unique and many of which bring back special memories.

I like getting together with my sister and making Christmas goodies to share with others. I enjoy giving thoughtful gifts to friends and family.

Since I have no kids of my own, I still enjoy being the kid on Christmas! I love waking up on Christmas morning and waking up my parents (though sometimes they’re the ones who wake me up these days). It’s not about what’s under the tree, but who is around it and I know how blessed I am to be able to share this time with my mom and dad.

My wish for each of you is that you have a Merry Christmas, whether it is white or warm! And for those of you who are struggling this time of year and merriment is simply out of reach, my wish for you is comfort and peace!

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