>A Beautiful Chicago Eve

>Biking home from work last night was beautiful. After a cool and rainy/cloudy spring the warmer temperatures and SUNSHINE we have been blessed with the last week certainly have not been taken for granted. Enjoying this final hour of light left me in a state of peace. A calm Lake Michigan to my right and the sun shying away behind Chicago’s skyline to my left. It takes a lot to beat natural beauty but I find there something absolutely stunning about Chicago. This city is beautiful and no matter where I am along the lakefront path-north or south-it amazes me each and every time.

It was the perfect time to enjoy a few moments of quiet near Diversey Harbor and watch the city fade from day to night.

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>Oh-So-Soft Skin

>With as many nasty carcinogenic chemicals and additives present in personal care products on the market these days-I’ve cut out use of many products or switched to a natural brand. I stick to as natural as possible while keeping it kosher. Even with the most natural product on the market, ideally I only want to use homemade so that I have complete control of what is going into itThis week I made a new batch of sugar scrub for the shower. I was WAY overdue for whipping up a new scrub- if I remember correctly I ran out back in late March! Homemade scrubs and bath salts are so quick and easy if you have a food processor! (& they smell soooo good!!)

The basic ingredients for the sugar scrub are:

*Coconut or sesame oil *I use coconut as it smells amazing but sesame is best for a neutral oil
*Raw cane sugar
*Essential oil of your choice

Optional ingredients I highly encourage to add:
*raw cacao powder
*fresh fruit
::::For example::::
sugar
coconut oil
lavender essential
cacao
~OR~
sugar
sesame oil
tangerine essential
one passionfruit

What I mixed up this week:
~1/4 cup melted coconut oil
~1 1/2 cups cane sugar
~15-20 drops tangerine essential oil
~1/8-1/4 c cacao powder
**Note that I estimate all amounts. I eyeball everything & never use a formal measuring device. I just add bit by bit of what I think needs to be added until I have made a heavenly scent & texture.

Combine all ingredients in your food processor and grind away until you have a smooth, uniform consistency. Should look like this:

I transfer to an airtight jar that keeps the air and water out.

Next on my list to try are strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, & mango. Stay tuned!

>Plastic Sucks

>Take a quick look at this map and fact sheet showcasing Plastic Bag Usage. Maui initiated its no bag policy in early January of 2011-right when I had arrived back on the island. I loved that every store had to participate in this ban on plastic-even WalMart (my nemesis)! I find it surprising (but not really given the way the world works) that the Big Island- so close you can see the darn thing- REJECTED the ban. Seriously?! Those who reject something like this such be ashamed of themselves; solely because they are down right idiots.

Reusable bags are where it’s at. Use them and love them. You’re doing the world a giant favor.

>Beverages with a KICK

>I’m so grateful there is a whole plethora of healthy beverages out there that aren’t just water. While I love love love water and never have a problem downing my recommended daily intake and then some- I thoroughly enjoy drinks with some bubbles and flavor. Aside from juices and smoothies, my favorites include kombucha (my favorite brand is GT’s), coconut water, coconut kefir water, and apple cider vinegar. Just as food combinations are very important for proper digestion- so too is consuming beverages. Years back when I began drinking kombucha I loved it so much I’d down a whole bottle as fast as it will take you to read this post. This only led to bloating and discomfort. So I thought I just couldn’t drink the stuff. Thankfully I tuned in. The key is drinking it on an empty stomach- or mostly empty- and sipping, not chugging. If you are so thirsty that you feel the need to chug the heck outta it, drink water! Same goes for water with ACV… enjoy it rather than devour.

If you’ve never tried kombucha I highly recommend it. I even got my Dad to try it a few weeks ago and after him saying no over 10 times, he ACTUALLY didn’t dislike it once he caved to my persistence. Look for it at your local natural health food store-Whole Foods is always a guarantee. My favorite flavors from GT’s (link above) are mango, strawberry, gingerade, and guava. They used to carry a grape that was just like drinking grape soda… the culprit in my chugging days- just too darn good!

ACV by far is the cheapest and easiest. Mix a few teaspoons in with my water and it is an instant belly pleaser! The smell may turn you off at first, as it does for many folk. Keep an open mind :) There are many benefits to incorporating apple cider vinegar into your daily regime. My go-to brand is Braggs.

Coconut water (or juice) and KeVita are my other faves. Personally I can’t get enough of Amy & Brian’s coconut water with pulp. The first time I tried young coconut water with pulp I thought it was one of the nastiest drinks ever! I couldn’t understand how anyone could enjoy chunks of coconut in their drink. Now I’d live off it if I could. Try some coco H20 to rehydrate naturally after or before workouts, dehydration from illness, or dehydration from drinking too much the night before :) Your body will appreciate it much more than sugary Gatorade. As for KeVita-I usually go for the mango coconut flavor. It has the benefits of both probiotics (same as what you find in kombucha) and coco water.

Go ahead and give one or all of these a try if you haven’t yet! I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

>JUICE JUICE JUICE

>With more and more people interested in the green juices I carry around with me I figure I’ll post some more combinations. yummmmmmmm!

If you are looking for an affordable juicer check out Jack LaLanne, available at CostCo for only $80. I have a Jack LaLanne that is still going strong even after being put through hell. Amazon also is a great resource for juicers. Depending on what your budget is and what you are looking for, I am sure you will find what you need.

1 broccoli stalk
3-5 stalks of celery
1/2-1 cucumber (peeled if not organic, otherwise toss it all in)
1 apple or 1 pear (cored)
1 lemon (whole)
Few handfuls of spinach, romaine, red leaf, kale, or chard
Nub of ginger

*like I have mentioned in the other juice post, I like to add a few pieces of pineapple if I feel it needs to be sweetened or a few carrots. Lately though I’ve been trying to limit the sweeter veggies/fruits and stick to mostly green.

If you like ginger and carrots this is another excellent juice I’ve been diggin’:

6-10 carrots
chunk of ginger

*these alone are excellent! Add half a lemon and/or one apple if desired.

>Queen of the Sun

>Monday night I attended a limited time screening of Queen of The Sun at the Musicbox Theatre in Chicago. Producer Taggart Siegel (other productions include The Real Dirt on Farmer John), takes you on a journey into the lives of bees and the now globally recognized CCD- Colony Collapse Disorder. With interviews and insight from beekeepers, scientists, and physicists; this film brings to light how CCD impacts each and every one of us. Taggart beautifully balances the spiritual and scientific elements of bees and beekeepers. What I really appreciate about the film is its non-political approach to this environmental crisis. Brought up in the Q&A with Taggart after the showing, a member in the audience asked him if he addressed the EPA and their role in protecting (or lack there of) bees. His response was that he did not want to make a Michael Moore film. Thank you Taggart. Unlike many other films out there throwing ways to take action in your face (sign this! call congress now!), Siegel inspires you to take action by simply telling the story through the eyes of the beekeepers. It would be impossible to watch this film and not feel inspired to take action in even the smallest way; purchasing local honey from the farmers market is easy, awesome support and delicious!

This winter I had my first hands-on experience with bees while living at Greenleaf. I was fortunate to work down the road a few afternoons a week for another farmer who had five hives and was kind enough to include me on one of his honey checks. I eagerly suited up and smoked the bees to check for honey. While there wasn’t anything ready for us to harvest it was still great to have this opportunity. & Maui isn’t too shabby of a place to remember as my first bee “lesson”. I know this summer I will tap into some local Chicago hives to learn some more before I trek to Pittsburgh and work with the bees on the farm.

If you can’t see Queen of The Sun at a screening here in Chicago or elsewhere… make it a point to get your hands on it when released on home video (summer 2011). It is imperative we as a society understand the importance of bees and how without them humans will suffer. I hope you enjoy this film as much as I did!

>Chocolate Creations

>My friend Heather and I decided to try and replicate raw & fine chocolates cacao & coconut chunky bonbon a couple weeks ago. We figured we could just throw some ingredients in a double broiler and see what turned out. Our first batch we put way too much cacao powder in and no sweetener… and cooked a few seconds too long. What we got was a very bitter and flavorless fudge like consistency. Quite unpalatable. To save the chocolate we just rolled it around some dates… edible but not great.

The next batch we melted roughly 1/2 cup of coconut oil on low. Once the oil completely melted we kept adding cacao powder until we felt it reached a decent fudge texture. We then added 1/4 cup coconut nectar, a touch of sea salt, and some stevia. Careful not to let it burn this time, we poured it into a pyrex dish and let it cool in the freezer for a few minutes. I wish I had pictures to share but I ate it all :) whooops. This one was really, really good.

Today I tried two more batches. I followed a recipe I found online for bark and also tried to replicate what Heather and I did. I ended up trying them later on this evening and… gross! It was really bad. And it must be really bad for me not to eat it. Tomorrow I’m going to have to throw it all back in the double boiler and add some stevia and coconut nectar. I’ll be sure to share the recipe that actually tastes good accompanied with photos tomorrow.