your plan for a self-loving valentine's day

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Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all been having a really great month so far. After this weekend, we’re going into the week of Valentine’s Day, a topic I mentioned my thoughts on in this month’s letter. Since this month’s editorial theme is self-love, I wanted to share some ideas for ways to spend this Valentine’s Day that promote that.

read something inspiring //
Spend the evening (or week) reading a book that will inspire you to be the best version of yourself and to love who you truly are. I recommend You Are a Badass, Spirit Junkie, How To Love Yourself (And Sometimes Others), and Big Magic.

watch something romantic //
Now’s the perfect time to watch something sweeping and romantic, even if it may not be about 'romantic love’. It could be a traditional romantic comedy like Crazy Rich Asians, You’ve Got Mail, and Notting Hill which will all put you in a good mood with the humor and gorgeous scenery. Or, it could be something more classically romantic such as Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Roman Holiday, and Funny Face.

bake a treat for yourself or to share //
For me at least, baking is a really calming and grounding activity to do and it results in something really delicious. Whether you’re keeping it all to yourself or inviting friends over to share, it’d be fun to spend the evening baking before settling in with your book or movie. Some ideas are a classic chocolate tart, Chloe Coscarelli’s chocolate chip cookies (with or without ice-cream), and the best fudgy brownies.

book a massage or facial //
If you need an excuse to treat yourself to a day at the spa, I’m providing you with an excuse! My local spa has this amazing package where you get a massage, facial, and pedicure as well as access to all of the facilities like sauna, stone loungers, and whirlpool for only about $135 and this is a gorgeous spa, mind you. See if any of your local spas have package deals like that because it’s so worth it!

have an at-home spa night //
If you can’t make it in to the spa, it’s easy to create your own experience right at home. Create a list of treatments you want to do, choose a chill playlist, then up the ante with some fruit or cucumber infused water. My favorite spa routine is to dry brush, take an amazing bath with salts and soaks while doing a face mask and hair mask, then follow up with a moisturizing body mask and DIY manicure/pedicure. 💅

write yourself a love letter //
This idea takes simple journaling a step further. Something nice to do any day of the year but especially around Valentine’s Day is to remind yourself that you’re always your own number one Valentine by writing yourself a love letter. It might seem silly at first, but writing down your accomplishments and the qualities you like about yourself is a really powerful exercise for your self-esteem.

create a positive mantra //
I love repeating my mantras every morning before I start the day and periodically switch them up depending on the situation. Use this week to develop your own positive mantra to put you in the right state of mind. I really like Jennifer Lopez’s mantras as well as these self love affirmations.

making the switch to a non-toxic lifestyle

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February is self love month and there are so many facets of what that means, but one of them is undoubtedly protecting your health. One big way to do that is to try your best to lead a ‘non-toxic lifestyle’. I’m not one of those people who is going to tell you chemicals are evil and to be avoided at all costs. It drives me crazy when I hear people say that because not all chemicals are dangerous. Water is a chemical, after all.

But we are definitely living in a time where we’re exposed to so many potentially dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. Over the last half a century, there’s been a huge uptick of chemical production in the U.S. Unfortunately, there’s some exposure that’s unavoidable, but that just means we should be taking control of our harmful chemical exposure in whatever ways we can. I put together a list of several things you can try in each area to reduce your exposure and lead as close to a non-toxic life as possible.

home //
You can go very in depth when it comes to the home, but here are a few basic things you can do to clean up your environment.

  • Reduce artificial fragrance. I adore candles as much as (possibly more than) the next person, but you have to be careful because the majority of candles are made with paraffin wax which releases known carcinogens when burned. Additionally, the artificial scents release even more toxins into the air. Make the switch to soy, beeswax, or coconut wax candles made with essential oils and wicks made from hemp, natural cotton, or wood. Some safe brands are Red Flower, Life+Cycle, SpaRitual, Mrs. Meyers, and Burt’s Bees. If you don’t need the flickering light of a candle, you can also just use an essential oil diffuser for home fragrance instead.

  • Use safe cleaning products. This is the big one. There are endless amounts of statistics about how harmful toxic cleaning products are to our health. The easiest switch you can make today is to stop using cheap, toxic brands and switch to cleaner products. I suggest using EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to find information on brands. Typically, the natural products that are easily found in stores (Mrs. Meyer’s, Method) fall in the middle. They’re not perfect, but they’re certainly better than things like Ajax and Clorox. Some of the top of the line brands you should check out are Seventh Generation and Attitude.

  • Use DIY methods. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on high end, non-toxic cleaning products because there are plenty of DIYs out there. The big two that I recommend are cleaning with a solution made from vinegar, water, and essential oils as an all purpose cleaner and using wool dryer balls with essential oils instead of dryer sheets.

  • Switch from plastic to glass. Even BPA free plastic can leak chemicals into food that’s being stored in it and that’s particularly true if you’re warming up food in plastic containers. A super easy swap is to use glass containers like Pyrex for food storage. It’s also so much better for the environment.

  • Open your windows. Not only does it feel good, but opening the windows can improve your indoor air quality by releasing built up air pollutants and dust. Indoor plants will also help purify your air!

food //

  • Reference the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. If you’re ever wondering, “Do I have to splurge and buy this organic?”, here you go. These lists tell us which produce items are most likely to be tested positive for high amounts of pesticides and which have the lowest amounts. Obviously buying organic all the time is ideal, but at least buy organic when it comes to the Dirty Dozen which contains things like strawberries, spinach, apples, grapes, and more.

  • Shop the perimeter of the store. Avoiding highly processed food is an easy way to reduce your intake of food toxins. Try to do the bulk of your shopping on the perimeter of the store, preferably in the produce section.

  • Adopt a plant based diet. Avoid meat and dairy altogether or at least, be very aware of where your meats aWear re coming from. Meat should ideally be high quality, grass fed, and organic.

beauty //

  • Make it easy by shopping smart. Finding non-toxic brands by scanning labels at the store for poor ingredients can be really confusing and time consuming. You can bypass all the research by simply shopping from trustworthy sources that do the work for you such as Credo, Follain, CAP Beauty, and Dermstore. Some particular brands I like are RMS, W3LL People, January Labs, Juice Beauty, Indie Lee, and Kjaer Weis.

  • Be aware of basic ingredients to avoid. These include sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, parabens, and phthalates. To make it easy, check out the EWG Cosmetics Database to see which products contain which potentially harmful ingredients and make the decisions best suited to your needs and concerns.

  • Wear less makeup. This is obviously a personal choice, but it’s certainly easier to avoid toxins in makeup by wearing less of it. Once you’re on the right skincare regimen for you, your skin will likely not even “need” makeup to look healthy and glowing. Over time, I’ve pared my makeup routine down to the basics of RMS concealer, a lip product, and sometimes mascara.

mind, body, soul //

  • Remove toxic people from your life. We’re not just talking about things that are toxic to the body, but things that are toxic to the mind and the soul as well. The state of your mind, after all, is a crucial part of your overall health so if you’re super stressed out, it likely won’t reflect well in your body. Relationships are complicated and there’s always highs, lows, conflicts, and so on but if someone is truly toxic in your life, do what you can to distance yourself for your own wellbeing.

  • Meditate. To manage the inevitable stress of daily life, get into a good meditation routine. I know it’s hard to get into at first, you’re not alone. It took me forever to finally get to a point where I like doing it and sometimes I’m still impatient about it. My advice is to start small, even if it’s just three to five minutes a day. I promise once you get into it, you’ll see the benefits.

  • Journal. Another way of combating stress and toxicity of the mind is to get all of your thoughts out in a journal. You can do it however you want whether it’s just a free flowing brain dump on the page or using complex charts to help sort out your thoughts. I definitely do a combination of both!

  • Go to therapy. A top notch way of getting all of your thoughts and emotions on the table in a healthy environment is to see a mental health counselor. It seems like the stigma of counseling is waning these days, which is great, but I still feel the need to say that going doesn’t make you weird/crazy/a failure or anything like that. It means you’re proactively taking your health into your own hands by consulting a professional who can help you make improvements to your life because that’s what successful people do.

  • Exercise. I’m not even talking about the physical benefits of exercise! When you find the right workout for you, doing it regularly becomes like a form of therapy that helps you to clear your mind and find peace and gratitude.

five of my go-to clean eating salad recipes

As someone who’s been (mostly) vegetarian for well over a decade now (since middle school!), I can’t count the number of times when I’ve been invited to a restaurant with a meat heavy menu only to be told, “But, it’s okay, they have salads!” My fellow vegetarians know how irritating this mostly well meaning statement can be because who wants to spend their money going out to eat only to order a sad salad most likely consisting of iceberg lettuce and sad, mealy tomatoes?

This is especially true when we know that we can just stay home and make our own beautiful, delicious salads from scratch. I would say most days I eat some form of salad for lunch and have begun to master the art of creating good, filling ones. Here are five of my go-to salad recipes that you can make for lunch or dinner.

creamy balsamic garden salad //
This one is really more about the dressing, so you can throw together whatever vegetables you like but I’m partial to dark lettuces as found in spring mix, halved cherry tomatoes, hemp or sesame seeds, cucumbers, and avocado. Top with the dressing which is made by blending together 1/2 cup greek yogurt, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 tbsp honey, then salt and pepper to taste.

butter lettuce with caramelized walnuts + green apples //
This one always makes me feel like i’m eating at a luxury hotel because it’s sort of a clean riff on the traditional Waldorf salad. Start with a base of butter lettuce, then top with diced apples, preferably green and caramelized walnuts. To make the walnuts, heat a pan over medium heat and add the amount of walnuts you want to use, maybe a handful. Drizzle maple syrup to lightly cover the walnuts, then heat and toss until they become candied. I recommend using Organic Girl’s White Cheddar dressing over this. It’s delicious and not nearly as bad as most dressings, which I tend to avoid.

gwyneth paltrow’s green goddess salad //
I’m obsessed with this recipe from Gwyneth’s book “It’s All Good”. It’s a big chopped salad with corn, chopped romaine, black beans, chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced scallions, and diced avocado topped with her insane Green Goddess dressing. To make the dressing, blend together 2/3 cup Greek yogurt or Vegenaise, 1/4 cup cilantro (which I omit because I hate cilantro), 2 chopped scallions, 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, 1/2 green jalapeño, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 tablespoon of raw honey.

kale salad with lemon vinaigrette + shaved parmesan //
For a super easy, elegant salad, massage chopped kale with a little bit of olive oil then top with a vinaigrette made from lemon juice, salt, olive oil, and crushed garlic. On top, shave a little bit of fresh parmesan. So, so good!

mediterranean cous-cous salad //
This isn’t the traditional salad as it’s not on a base of lettuce but I still consider it to be a form of salad. It’s inspired by a meal from the Kayla Itsines’ sweat app although hers used quinoa which I’m replacing with cous-cous. Prepare cous-cous according to box directions. Spread a can of drained chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil then top with dried thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Add chickpeas to cous-cous, then top with halved cherry tomatoes, hollowed out cucumber, and a little vinaigrette made by combining olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, more thyme, and a tiny bit of honey.

healthy habits to pick up this year

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We all know “getting healthy” is one of the most common new year’s resolutions but it seems like the days of January fad diets and failed workout plans are in the past and more holistic wellness is the goal. Here are a few habits you can pick up this year to work toward your wellness goals.

Add supplements to your morning routine.
I currently only take a beauty supplement from Olly with keratin, biotin, and vitamins C&E, but this healthy habit obviously depends on your personal needs. Whether it’s collagen creamer or a simple multivitamin, take some time to assess where you need some extra help and find a supplement that works for you. I swear, adding the Olly vitamin to my routine has improved my hair exponentially.

Regularly wash and swap out your pillowcases.
This is one I am vowing to do more often because I know how much a “dirty” pillowcase can impact your skin and hair. I recently got new sateen pillowcases from Boll & Branch for my main sleeping pillow which is huge. Now that I have two, I’m swapping them out about every three days then washing at the end of the week.

Incorporate adaptogens into your diet.
I know I talk about this a lot and even have a whole blog post dedicated to it, but I truly believe it’s a great habit to adopt. You don’t have to go crazy and fill your entire pantry. Just start small with one adaptogen powder like abhwagandha or a mushroom blend.

Stop comparing yourself.
That even means stop comparing yourself against yourself. Around the start of a new year, I feel like people are so hard on themselves by setting these ‘resolutions’ that they ultimately fail because they weren’t really the right resolutions in the first place. Goals are great, but you’re also great how you are already. In the new year, keep that in mind.

Make regular wellness appointments.
It can be hard to keep track of these wellness appointments when you’re already leading a pretty busy lifestyle. But, keeping them in check is only going to benefit in you in the long run. In the first few months of the year, I’m setting up one wellness appointment per month starting with the chiropractor. These appointments of course include your regular doctor, dentist, and vision appointments but could aso be things like massage, reiki, facials, and acupuncture.

Remember to wear sunscreen daily.
That’s it. Just do it! Even if it’s cloudy, even if you’re indoors all day.

Create a sleep routine.
If you’re really looking to improve your health this year, start by optimizing your sleep routine because that’s honestly the key to everything. Before bed, have a cup of tea or magnesium powder stirred into water. I’ve even put magnesium powder in my sleepy time tea! Put a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue, turn on your essential oil diffuser with some lavender, spray your pillows with a lavender mist, do some stretches, then meditate before you fall asleep. Make sure your room is kept cold and add a humidifier if needed.

make the most out of the rest of your winter season

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In all honesty, i write this as it’s 81 degrees outside but I have lived in wintry climates the past few years so I promise I know what I’m talking about 😅 After Christmas, winter becomes a lot more of a burden rather than a festive, fun time of year. The weeks of cold, blustery weather seem to drag on and on forever. That’s why the Danish created the concept of hygge to stay cozy and happy through the worst weather. I’m always inspired by hygge when I think of ways to keep sane during winter. Here are some of the things I love to do to make the most of the post-holiday winter months.

cook a warming stovetop soup or stew
Whenever I think of cooking stew on the stove, I think of the Burrow from Harry Potter and how Molly Weasley makes everything so cozy. During the first few months of the year when it’s freezing outside, it’s good to eat foods that keep you warm and protect your immune system. Shalane Flanagan has a great recipe in her cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow (which I highly recommend) for her Mineral Broth, which is perfect for winter, but some other great options are minestrone, bone broth, and classic tomato.

create a cozy environment for your workouts
When it’s cold in the morning, it can be so hard to get out of bed to do your workouts because you just wanna stay under the covers for that extra half hour or so. To make those morning (or evening, since it gets dark so early) workouts super enjoyable, light a few candles in your space, spray your mat with some soothing essential oil mist, and turn on a playlist that makes you feel good.

turn on some jazz + have a hot drink
A favorite winter activity is hanging out in cozy coffee shops, but sometimes you just can’t make it out of the house. Instead, turn your home into a coffee shop with a jazz playlist, dim the lights, and make a hot drink. Next time you go to HomeGoods or Target, pick up a nice syrup or some cinnamon sticks to have on hand for your at-home coffee experience.

have a soothing at-home spa day
Okay, here’s what you do. Start filling your tub with warm water, then add chamomile epsom salts or an all-natural bath soak. Turn on a diffuser with eucalyptus essential oil, dry brush your body, turn on a calming playlist, podcast, or audio book. While you’re in the bath, apply a face mask and use a body scrub. When you get out, use a body oil (preferably warm) and then wrap up in a cozy robe for the rest of the night.

bundle up + take a walk with a cup of tea
When it’s chilly outside but you want to get out to do something active, bundle up and go for a walk around your neighborhood or local park. The key here is bringing a warm drink in a thermos or a mug along with you. I like brewing a cup of green tea or earl grey to carry with me. Not only will drinking it warm you up, but just holding it in your hands helps too.

make some snacks + have a board game tournament
I love board games all year round, but they’re especially fun in the winter when you’re all cooped up inside. Gather all the blankets in your house and a stack of board games, then light a fire if you can (or just use this). Before you start playing, make a spread of snacks like roasted chickpeas, cheesy popcorn, and trail mix.