3.23.2015

10 Healthier Easter Candy Alternatives

10 Healthier Easter Candy Alternatives

Okay, you might have already noticed that this is not a post about filling your child’s Easter basket with tangerines and baby carrots — or for that matter, non-edible items like toys and trinkets — in the place of candy. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things; they are all great ideas! But this is about identifying relatively “healthier” versions of traditional Easter candy, for those who want to indulge a little (even if it’s just one day a year).

Many of us have fond memories attached to treats like Cadbury or Reese’s eggs, Peeps and those cute chocolate bunnies, and even if we’ve made a conscious choice to no longer consume junk foods or most manufactured candies, it’s still nice to feel like we have a few options to indulge in once in a while.

So here are some of my favorite Easter basket treat alternatives. These options are all gluten-free and grain-free, plus free of artificial colors, additives and GMO ingredients. They include some alternatives for those who have food allergies or are on specialized diets, such as Paleo, vegan or GAPS. Most of them do contain sugar (with the exception of one), but only in organic or natural forms (that being said, whether the sugar represented in this bunch is organic and/or natural, it’s still sugar and should be consumed moderately and as a once-in-a-while treat.)

Divided into two parts, section one focuses on store-bought options, while section two features wholesome, healthy make-at-home recipes. And now, on to the list!

3.13.2015

Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano

Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano
Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano
Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano
Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano
Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano
Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano
Puppy Love, Part 2: Luciano

Sometimes you don’t know you’re incomplete, until something -- or someone -- comes along and well, completes you.

That was Luciano for us. Spencer was our first puppy child, and taking care of him kept our plates pretty full for those first few months after we adopted him. But as time went by, we decided we might want to start looking for a doggy companion for him. So we set out to the local weekly dog adoption to simply start looking for a brother or sister for Spencer. It was not our intention to adopt a dog that day (we wanted some time to think about it first), but when we walked into the adoption event, everything changed.

Luciano caught our attention immediately. He was energetic and charismatic, full of personality and affectionate as could be. He appeared to be a favorite among the volunteers. The rest of his litter had already been adopted out, so he was the only one left from the bunch still looking for a forever home.

That’s when we learned about what Luciano had gone through during his early puppy life. Flashback to six months prior: a precious litter of puppies was born in Mexico. Our amazing local dog rescue group, Doggies 911, was informed that this litter had been dumped and was in danger, so they went through extreme measures to cross the border to save them. After facing multiple challenges, they were finally able to cross back into California with this rambunctious litter of puppies in tow. One of the puppies was a black and tan little charmer whom they decided to name Luciano. They were happy to have made it back across the border, but the relief was short-lived, as they soon learned that Luciano had contracted canine parvovirus or “parvo,” a life-threatening, highly contagious virus that requires intensive veterinary treatment. The disease is often fatal, but the team at Doggies 911 persevered, sparing no expense to get Luciano the best possible medical attention. Luciano went through the necessary treatment, but because the condition is so contagious, he was forced to live in isolation for quite some time while he recovered (knowing now how social Luciano is, we imagine that this had to be terribly depressing for him). But Luciano beat the odds and survived, and was eventually healthy enough to be eligible to find his forever home.

3.07.2015

Vintage Vacation: Ireland

Vintage Vacation: Ireland
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Hole of Sorrows, Cow
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Cliffs of Moher
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Cliffs of Moher
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Cliffs of Moher
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Limerick City, Shannon River
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Limerick City, King John's Castle and the Shannon River
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Durty Nelly’s
Vintage Vacation: Ireland, Bunratty Castle

If there ever was a place that appeared to come straight out of a fairy tale, it’s Ireland. It was the year 2000, and although we would only be there for a few days (my friends and I had five cities and four countries to visit in a matter of two and a half weeks, so we were on a tight schedule), it would turn out to be one of the most unforgettable places I’ve ever visited.

While most might have planned to visit Dublin during their first trip to Ireland, we decided to spend our short duration of time there on the more rural, west side of the Emerald Isle, visiting Limerick and the surrounding areas instead. We wanted to experience the beauty of the countryside, although I admit that my vote was also largely influenced by the fact that I was a big fan of Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, which was set in his hometown of Limerick City). Since it was our first stop, it would be my first impression of western Europe, and what an impression it was.

The first thing I noticed when we stepped off the plane was how clean the air was (coming from southern California, it was a strange and foreign feeling in my lungs). The air was crisp and brisk, almost intoxicating. I felt a bit out of my element, but in a good way. The second thing I noticed was that Ireland is perhaps the friendliest country on the planet. (Well, in all fairness, I haven’t visited every country on the planet…but it definitely tops the list out of everywhere I’ve been.) Our taxi driver was a sweet older gentleman named Noel who offered to be our personal driver for the remainder of the visit. He handed us his card, and we called him anytime we needed a ride for the rest of the trip (we nicknamed him “dad” because he was a kind, concerned father-like figure that made us feel like there was someone looking over us.)

All of this was impressive, but Ireland’s breathtakingly beautiful scenery is probably what stands out most in my mind. It was everything I’d dreamt up in my mind and more: bright green grasslands as far as the eye could see, set beside a deep blue ocean and beneath a vibrant blue sky. Even during the cloudy hours, it was magnificent. The 15-year old printed photos that came from my old 35mm camera unfortunately don't do it justice, but I promise you: it's a place you want to experience in person.

2.26.2015

Veggie Omelette Recipe (and the Truth About Eggs)

Veggie Omelette Recipe (and the Truth About Eggs)
Veggie Omelette Recipe (and the Truth About Eggs)

Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the last few decades. As part of the government’s movement to demonize saturated and animal fats, eggs were mistakenly blamed for raising cholesterol and contributing to heart disease. Consequently, we were encouraged to replace eggs and many other whole, natural foods with processed, “low-fat” and “low cholesterol” food products, such as margarine and processed boxed breakfast cereals (one of the most deceptive “health” food products in existence). It wasn't long before modern-day illness was on the rise, cases of heart disease began to skyrocket, and we were left to figure out where we went wrong.

In reality, eggs are a superfood. It’s what many nutritionists and doctors have known for quite some time, and even the US government is finally getting on board, as they recently loosened their guideline restrictions on eggs (sadly, they still continue to vilify saturated fat and praise unhealthy grains, but I’m hoping those guidelines may finally be corrected one day too).

For me, eggs have been very instrumental in my healing. When I was at the worst points during my recent 2½-year Crohn’s flare, eggs became the only food I could tolerate on a daily basis. There was a time when I literally survived on a mere two scrambled eggs a day (cooked in unrefined coconut oil, of course). Knowing that they are a nutritionally-dense “safe” food for me, they've remained in my daily diet for the last 3½ years, and are now an important part of my current anti-inflammatory Paleo diet. I admit, there were moments when I let the mainstream nutrition myths mess with my head: I questioned whether or not my egg intake was negatively affecting my cholesterol levels, and this was the last thing I needed. It was not too long ago when I battled with extremely high white blood cell and platelet counts, low red blood cell counts (i.e. I was very anemic), abnormally elevated liver counts and borderline high blood sugar. I had to have blood transfusions, iron infusions and was closely monitored for over two years. I’m thrilled to say that just two weeks ago, my most recent blood work came back completely normal, my cholesterol levels were perfect, and my results were the best my doc has ever seen in me. Score one very big point for Paleo! Sure, there are some exceptions (some people have allergies or intolerances to eggs), but for the most part, there’s no reason to fear this nutritionally-dense (and relatively inexpensive) superfood.

2.24.2015

Wish List: Blush Pink

Wish List, Blush Pink
Wish List, Blush Pink Saint Laurent Handbag

(Photo credit: ShopSense/Nordstrom)

This season, blush pink seems to be everywhere. It’s subtle yet striking, timeless yet trendy. The only problem for me? It’s not the most flattering color on me (nudes and pale pinks tend to wash out my skin tone). But perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to it (you always want what you can’t have, right?).

Although you might not find me dressed head-to-toe in blush pink, there’s no reason I can’t indulge in some beautiful accessories (and gush over the things I wish I could wear). So I decided to share a little dream board of some of my latest blush pink favorites. A girl can dream, can’t she?

2.20.2015

Battle of the Facial Masks

Battle of the Facial Masks, Best Facial Masks
Battle of the Facial Masks, Best Facial Masks
Battle of the Facial Masks, Best Facial Masks
Battle of the Facial Masks, Best Facial Masks
Battle of the Facial Masks, Best Facial Masks

Well, you already know that I’ve raved about GlamGlow
YouthMud™ Tingleexfoliate Treatment as one of my favorite products, but the truth is, I use several facial masks on a regular basis because they all seem to serve different purposes. Depending on what my complexion needs are for that day, I have a few go-to masks. The following are all free of parabens and other chemical preservatives: