Dry Skin? Try This!

Welcome to Winter, the season of perpetually dry skin. I always have trouble with dryness in both my hands and my face during the winter months. My hands get especially dry because of all of the added washing that comes along with germ season. My kids have both been sick a couple of times, as has my boyfriend and both of his kids. As for me? So far I’ve dodged the bullet, and a lot of that is attributed to quarantining my sick kiddos, cleaning everything they touch multiple times per day while they’re sick, and washing my hands constantly.

As for my face — I’ve learned something new. If you read my year-end posts, you may have heard me mention that I wanted to get my Holistic Nutrition Certification. Well friends, that is no longer just a dream! I have paid for the course, received the materials, and have dove in head first! One of the first things I’ve learned is the inner workings of the skin, which has led me to a new skin care routine based on the science of how the skin actually works.

The top layer of the skin (epidermis) is dead, and steadily falling off every day. It is made up of keratin, the same cells that comprise our hair and nails. The bottom layers of the skin are the living layers that are always busy generating new cells. The middle layer (dermis) is where our follicles and sweat glands live, and this is where sebum is produced.

Sebum mixes with sweat to form an acid mantle on the skin, which protects our skin from pathogens and environmental toxins. When sebum is depleted, our skin becomes both dry, and vulnerable to pathogens and other damage. It is important to make sure that our day-to-day routines are not depleting this vital element of our skin health.

One of the first things I found is that our daily bathing habits are a key source of sebum depletion. Soaps and detergents strip away sebum, and then we apply lotions to try to ease the dryness, which expose us to a wealth of toxins. A good way to stop this process is to stop soaping up in the shower. Wash the important areas well with soap — armpits and groin, for example — daily. But unless you’ve been doing something that has you dirty or covered in sweat, just rinse the skin with water everywhere else and only use soap maybe once per week. And, make sure it is a mild soap — I use goat milk soap from Bend Soap Company on Amazon.

I have seen a very noticeable difference in my face. I’ve begun doing yoga in the mornings a few days per week, and when I do this I don’t have as much time to get ready in the morning and have therefore been skipping out on the makeup (which in and of itself is counterproductive to skin care because it prevents the skin from breathing). I don’t wear makeup on weekends unless I’m going out for something special. So most days here lately I am makeup free.

What I have noticed is that the dryness in the skin on my face is completely gone. I have not needed to use my facial moisturizer at all in at least a couple of weeks, when normally I need it every day in the winter. At first I attributed this to the lack of makeup, but now I know that it is because of the soap. When I was wearing makeup, I had to scrub my face, twice, every night to get the makeup off. After my shower my face was so dry it almost hurt, so I had to use moisturizer.

I stopped using soap on my face because I had no makeup to scrub off. I’ll just wipe my face with warm water under the shower head. My skin is now soft, smooth, and more elastic than it ever was when I was wearing makeup, and therefore scrubbing with soap, regularly. My acne and complexion have also cleared quite a bit, although this may have just as much to do with cutting way back on the dairy recently as well.

So — limit soap use to allow sebum production to maximize. This will not only resolve dryness in the skin, but it also helps protect your skin against pathogens!

Something else you can do is dry brushing. This is good for stimulation of the lymphatic vessels as well, so it serves a dual purpose. Pick yourself up a good bath brush, preferably with a handle so you can reach your middle back. I found one at Target for $4.

Before your shower, start with your feet and softly brush up, in short strokes, towards your heart. When you reach your ribs, switch to your hands and, again, work your way up towards your heart. You’ll do your chest last, brushing again towards your heart.

To make this a spa treatment (once or twice a week), follow this with an Epsom salt bath — 1-2 cups of Epsom salt in hot bath water, plus about 10 drops of a lavender essential oil — for about 15 minutes. With dead skin cells removed, this will help your body to release toxins through the skin more efficiently. Follow this with a cool shower to close the pores.

Otherwise, take a hot shower afterwards, turning the water to cool at the end to cool the skin and close the pores. Once your skin is dry, you can also use an organic oil, like jojoba or coconut oil, to rub into your skin. This will help protect your skin without disrupting sebum production.

Do not use any lotions unless they are completely natural and unscented, like the goat milk lotion I use, also from Bend Soap Company, because standard lotions are filled with toxins and your skin is a very absorbent organ. In fact, it is the first point of contact for many of the toxins we are exposed to which end up causing us harm. That means our skin can also act as our first line of defense if we treat it right!

So to recap:

  • Only use soap in target areas, like armpits and groin; rinse the rest of the skin with warm water only
  • Dry brush often
  • Follow hot showers with cool water to close pores
  • Apply a safe skin care oil, like organic jojoba or coconut oil, after showers
  • Avoid standard scented lotions
  • Take Epsom salt baths, followed by a quick cool shower rinse, once or twice per week

I personally use jojoba oil on my skin after an Epsom salt bath. And I do really like the goat milk soap, which I use as a hand moisturizer since washing cannot be avoided for that part of my skin. You can get a package deal of three bars of soap plus a bottle of lotion for around $30 on Amazon:


If you try this out for a little while, please let me know how it’s working for you. I would love to hear from you!


Menu Planning for the Week at My House

Dear Friends,

I share with you some healthy recipes on my Mediterranean Mondays, but I thought it might be nice to share with you how I plan out my week in food. I have two sons, plus a boyfriend and his six-year-old (who he has every other week) that I cook for regularly, so planning out our meals and creating a corresponding shopping list to stay on budget for a family of five is crucial. I have to plan meals that are healthy, and also budget friendly, which can be tough when you’re buying good quality, health conscious products.

So, here is how I do it:


I start off with lunch for the week. My kids eat at school, because we are fortunate enough to have our school district cover the cost of all kids’ lunches, and there is no way I could keep within the $525 monthly budget for food if I had to buy food for the kids to take to school for lunch, too. So for lunch I’m covering myself and Michael. Whatever I decided to make, I double it so that we have enough for each of us for at least most of the week.

The primary criteria for lunch — I almost always make it something plant-based.

For the upcoming week, I am going to make a kale salad with black-eye peas and roasted sweet potatoes, served over couscous.


I also plan something for breakfast for my kids (and sometimes Michael, depending on what it is) each week. Michael and I do not live together, so if I decide to do something like whole wheat pancake batter or waffle mix, he doesn’t get to benefit from that since I’m making it at my house every morning. I will mix up a double batch of pancake mix, for example, and store it in a large jar in the refrigerator, then simply pour some into a hot skillet to make pancakes for the kids.

For the upcoming week, I am making the Blueberry Lemon Muffins I shared on the blog a few months back.

For me:

My breakfast is pretty much the same every day — I make ahead a few jars of oatmeal on Sunday food prep day, and grab one to take to work with me each morning. Around 9:00 I pour it into a bowl and heat it up for 90 seconds in the microwave. I use rolled oats (I just got a thing of gluten free rolled oats from Azure Standard to try next week), either walnuts or sliced almonds, chia seeds, either raisins, dried cranberries or diced apples, cinnamon, stevia and almond milk.


I come up with two dinner ideas for the weeks when Michael does not have Gabriel and my boys are with their dad for that weekend, and three dinner ideas for the weeks that Michael does have Gabriel and all three of our boys are home for the weekend. I will choose something that makes enough so we get leftovers and I don’t need to cook every single night, and also don’t need to buy a wide range of ingredients that would set me over budget. I also have to try to come up with things that are healthy, but a six-year-old will still eat, which can be challenging too since he’s not adjusted to having a healthy diet quite yet.

Dinner next week:

Next week is an all-boys-on-deck week, so I have three dinners planned with some kid-friendly recipes.

  1. Quinoa Pizza Burgers — plant based burgers topped with mozzarella (I am going to practice with making a vegan mozzarella later this week or weekend, so if that’s successful I will be using that instead), served with side salads.
  2. Roasted Chicken Breast and Fall Vegetables — the fall veggies being roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, inspired by a side dish from Red Lobster that I had on our date night last night.
  3. Mushroom and Sundried Tomato Rotini — a recipe I picked up from Pickup Limes on YouTube last week that looked delicious and simple. A one-dish meal is always a plus for me, and can make plenty for leftovers without spending a fortune!


You know a meal plan can’t be complete without snacks, especially when you have kids, especially when you have teenage boys! I have definitely figured out some staples for us that we all love, and what snacks go on the plan each week depends mostly one what we’re out of and need to replace.

Our Go-To’s

Cranberry Chocolate Low-Carb Granola Bars are Michael’s favorite snack, so I make these regularly.

Veggies and hummus — I recently started making my hummus homemade to avoid the preservatives in the store-bought variety. We all love roasted red pepper hummus! So much so that I measure it out (2 tablespoons into a 4oz jar) to make sure my kids eat the right amount and not the entire container at once.

Chips and salsa — I buy the organic mutli-grain chips from Aldi for my house, and also buy the organic black bean chips from Aldi for Michael. I also measure out 2 tablespoons of the salsa into the 4oz jars like I do the hummus.

Fruit — mostly apples and grapes are the favorites, although I personally love raw cranberries (yay for those being in season right now!) and grapefruit.

Organic plain Greek yogurt — I like to minimize dairy as much as I can, but yogurt is one of Logan’s favorites. So I buy it plain and organic, then sweeten it with a little stevia and some vanilla extract. I scoop it out into 8oz jars and sprinkle a few dark chocolate chips on top.

Nuts and cheese — another dairy snack that my other child likes. Hunter is my super picky kid, so it’s strictly roasted peanuts for him, plus an ounce of cheese — usually white cheddar. I measure the peanuts out (1/4 cup in a 4oz jar) for him, otherwise he would eat the entire container in one sitting. And I cut up the cheese into 1oz chunks so he can grab one to eat with his jar of nuts.

Celery and peanut butter or ranch — I wash and chop up the celery, and put as many sticks as possible into an 8oz jar, then measure out the appropriate serving size of either peanut butter or ranch into 4oz jars.

Noticing a trend? I use a lot of glass jars! If you have teenagers, then you know that they have absolutely no concept of portion control. So in order to make the snacks last a week instead of a day, I do this to make sure they a) are not overeating, and b) aren’t making me blow my budget on snacks!


When we don’t have the kids, I don’t plan anything. We usually have enough leftovers and ingredients around to throw something together, but we also have date night on Saturdays when all of the kids are away so we will eat out or pick up supplies to make something fun at home. Our last date night, for example, we went by an Asian grocer in town called Pacific Rim and picked up some things to make sushi, plus a bag of frozen veggie dumplings.

For next week

Chili! This is one of the few foods my oldest picky child loves, it’s cheap, it’s easy to make, and it lasts the whole weekend. I probably make this about once a month during the cold seasons. Our weeks are busy, and I spend a few hours on Sundays prepping breakfast, snacks, and lunch for the week, so I refuse to spend any more time than that cooking for every meal all weekend long!

Since I’m the only one who would probably be almost entirely plant-based in the family if not for feeding everyone else, I will keep part of the chili meat-free for myself, but the rest will have a small amount of ground turkey in it to please the others.

The Shopping List

As I add meals to the plan, I list out the ingredients needed for each meal. I then put the ingredients on a list in the order that they’re in at the grocery store (to keep my shopping trips quick and efficient), and list out the rounded-up prices of each item to the side, with a total at the bottom. This way I know how much I can expect to spend before I go to the store and keep on-budget.

So how much are we spending next week? $148, which includes a few items I’m buying in bulk from Sams Club for the month, like walnuts, almonds and dried cranberries which I use both in my oatmeal and in Michael’s granola bars. The rest of the weeks of the month are usually between $100 and $125.

I also will usually place an order through Azure Standard for an item or two that we use often, and if I do that I allocate $50 of the budget to that. This month I just bought a 5lb bag of gluten free rolled oats and a 6-pack of Ezekiel bread to get us through the next month, so I won’t need to buy either of those things on our shopping trips.

With this being a holiday week, things are pretty abnormal this week so I’m taking a brief hiatus on meals and photos. Next week, however, I’m looking at doing a post on snack and food prep, with photos of how I divide and store them. I’m also considering doing weekly meal plan posts, shorter in description than this one has been, but with more details of ingredients and links to any recipes if I’m using something from online.

One of the biggest struggles in learning to eat healthy, I’m noticing, is figuring out how to cook and shop in a different way than people are used to. My hope is that sharing meal plans and ingredients can help simplify that for people who are transitioning into a healthy way of life. If this is something you would like to see more of, please let me know!

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!



Planning Ahead vs. Appreciating the Moment

Dear Friends,

Happy Halloween! Another year, another work Halloween costume contest! This year, as usual, I had two costumes…one for a Halloween party and one for work. Last weekend Michael and I went to my friends’ annual Halloween party dressed as Peg and Al Bundy. My work crew did a rock star theme, each of us choosing an iconic 80’s rocker. I went as Cyndi Lauper, and have also become a pro at teasing my hair!

It’s been another fast-moving week, but a really good one too. My plan to slow down and take more time for myself has proven to be a good one. Monday night Michael and I were completely lazy — we laid in bed and watched Married with Children (we’re hooked again thanks to our costume!) until bedtime. Tuesday night we took the night apart. He worked late and I got laundry and dishes all done and then some reading. Then last night was Logan’s SRE night — but it got cancelled this week so I still took that time to go over to Michael’s house so we could spend some time just the two of us. We laid on the couch watching Friends and eating Imo’s Pizza (if you’re not from Missouri, you need to try this iconic St. Louis pizza if you’re ever in the area!).

This weekend was pretty plan-free and I was hoping we might finally get the chance to hit up an orchard and take in some fall foliage now that the leaves are all in their full Autumn glory; but Michael’s employer had to cancel family day last weekend since it rained the entire day Saturday, and it’s now been rescheduled for this Saturday. So there went any chance of orchards and a foliage drive. He has to give tours which means we go grocery shopping in the morning and spend our afternoon at family day. Then we’re going to mass and by the time that is over it’ll be 6pm, dark, and time for date night.

I pretty much live for my kid-free Saturdays. It’s the only two days out of the month that I’m free to do what I want and have nowhere to be. So I was definitely bummed that my free day was taken away. I was driving to work yesterday looking at the Hickories and the Maples, orange and yellow and warm, and started to feel sad that their leaves would be gone and scattered across the ground by the time I finally had a chance to enjoy them.

Then I had a sudden realization. I was enjoying them then, right at that moment. I wanted to take some downtime to drive and enjoy the views, maybe even do a hike (but let’s be honest, it’s gotten way too cold for me for that!). But wasn’t that what I was already doing? Driving and soaking up the beauty of Fall? Why did I feel the need to plan a time in the future to enjoy it, when I could be doing it right now? Who says I can’t appreciate the fall foliage anytime I want?

img_0237As a planner and an organizer, I recognize that my biggest flaw is not being in the moment. I bought Michael and I a set of My Intent bracelets back in August, just a couple of weeks before his cancer diagnosis that neither of us saw coming. For his I chose the word “resilient”, which proves to be more and more true for him all the time. For me, I chose the phrase “be present”…which is what I need to be reminded of more and more all the time.

I glanced down at that bracelet and realized I still haven’t gotten very good at practicing what I preach. Every single morning I admire the row of Maple trees in the yard at the end of my street to the right, and the Hickory to the left. I feel a little glow in my spirit from driving down the street, littered in yellow and orange with a narrow path of tire tracks in the center. Every day I’m surrounded by the very thing I love most about Fall, and instead of actually appreciating it I was busy thinking, “I really wish I had time to appreciate this”.

The truth is, I do have time. Every single day I have the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy the moment I am in and be present. Some things need to be planned — my grocery list, my meals for the week, time to get my cleaning done — because if I don’t plan them they don’t happen/I go over budget/chaos ensues. But there are some things that can never be planned for — the timing of the Fall colors, moments of affection with the man I love, things my kids do that make me proud. Those are the times when I need to stop thinking about what comes next and pay attention to where I already am. When I need to stop thinking about what I should be doing and pay attention to what I am doing.

I think a lot of us get caught up in the “I will be happy when _____” thought process. That seems to be human nature. Reality is, happiness doesn’t come from planning the future, because when the future becomes the present, instead of being happy with what’s come to fruition we’re already thinking about what will make us happy next. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought back on a memory and realized how good it makes me feel. But I can’t remember feeling that good while it was happening. How did I miss it? Why is it only in looking back that it becomes valuable?

Life doesn’t exist in the past, and you never really know if there will be a future. Life happens now, in the present moment. You are only living, breathing, thinking, existing, feeling, right now. So let’s all do something right now. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing…pause. Just for a minute. Look around you, and take it all in. No matter what you are doing, I promise you there is something there, something in this moment, for you to appreciate.

I want to make a promise to myself and to all of you. I promise to stop and take time every single day to appreciate where I am. I promise to catch myself when I’m thinking ahead, and find something in the moment to focus on. I promise to use my bracelet, which I wear every single day, for it’s intent — to bring me into the present. Because in the present is where life happens ❤



Overbooked and Under-rested? It’s Okay to Say No!

Hello again, and Happy Friday! This evening I have a wedding rehearsal to attend with Michael, and the whole day tomorrow will be dedicated to his sister’s wedding. This means one thing for us – BUSY! Busy has been the trend for both of us — but especially for Michael — for the last six weeks. The good news is, we have a light at the end of our tunnel. After tomorrow we finally get some downtime with nothing scheduled.

If you noticed that I missed my Mediterranean Monday post — well there’s a reason for that! I had a recipe chosen and everything, but my camera battery died on October 2nd while taking pictures at Hunter’s confirmation and I have yet to charge it! I also have yet to edit any of those photos, which is why more than a week later none have been shared on my social media pages. No camera battery = no photos of my dish for Mediterranean Monday. And so…I just skipped it!

I’ve done that a lot this past week, because I needed to. I had been so overwhelmed with obligations and responsibilities that this week, I just needed some down time, and so I took it. The main focus of this blog is health, and while diet is my number one priority where health is concerned, our mental and emotional health is another very big part of that equation.

In today’s world, stress is everywhere. There are always more obligations and scheduled events than there are hours in a day, or so it seems. We have a world that is more plagued with anxiety and depression than it has ever been, which means the need to unplug and recharge is greater than it’s ever been. Even if you are not going through, or healing from, some traumatic event, you may very well be stressed to the point of anxiety just from your day-to-day life.

This is where I tell you, “it is okay to just say no.” If you’re like me, you love your friends and family, and maybe you really love feeling wanted, needed, and/or helpful. So when something comes up you say YES!! without hesitation. And then afterwards you start to feel the pull of the obligation you just committed yourself to. You start to look at your calendar and realize you have no time to yourself. You don’t have a chance any time in your near future to take some “me” time to recharge. And as you navigate your way through the events on your calendar you start to feel drained, anxious, and even cranky from taking on too much.

And that, my friends, is why it’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s HEALTHY to say no, and to know your limits. By now you’ve surely heard the saying “you have to take care of yourself first before you can give yourself to others”. By saying no, you are taking care of yourself. You are giving yourself time to reset and recharge. You are easing your stress and anxiety, and filling your energy tank back up to the top.

When I say it’s okay to say no, I mean…saying no to invites for dinner, saying no to un-required work events, saying no to optional meetings and appointments, saying no to requests for help from family, even saying no to your house work and laundry! Sometimes, everything that is an obligation or a responsibility (except your kids, of course, if you’re a parent, or your job) needs to move to the back burner for your peace of mind.

And when you say no to those things, there is no need to feel guilty for it! People who care about you will understand. And if they don’t understand? Well, then, simply put…they’ll get over it. I don’t mean for that to sound harsh, but there are times when you need to cut off your habit of caring too much about the opinions of others to focus instead on your own needs.

For me personally (and Michael), we’ve been going nonstop since our Chicago trip on September 6-8. We’ve had kid weekends filled with camping, zoo trips and movie outings. Michael had a work trip, plus his son had twice-a-week soccer games the entire month of September. Logan started up SRE again in September as well and has that every Wednesday night. I’ve had interviews for school assignments, shopping and putting together outfits for all of us for the wedding, plus hair appointments and Hunter’s confirmation practice followed by confirmation, and then Hunter’s first high school homecoming a couple of days after that, and then Michael had a “diapers for dad” party for his brother-in-law.

This week has finally been calmer for me, except for parent teacher conferences last night. And of course all the wedding stuff tonight and tomorrow. Michael and I both decided that, after tomorrow, we are saying no to everything. Sunday night Gabe goes to his mom’s for the week and we get to have a date night. Then next weekend my boys go to their dad’s and we will have our very first completely kid-free weekend since September 7th. Already things have come up for that weekend. I have two friends plus a sister with birthdays that weekend and the birthday invites have rolled in, along with a gender reveal party invitation and a work party invitation a couple days after that. I love my friends and family, but…

We promised each other there would be no obligating ourselves to anything that weekend long before these events started pouring in, and we’re keeping our word. It’s a weekend for the two of us to spend however we want it, without any plans, responsibilities, or obligations. If the time comes and we feel like going to a birthday dinner or a house party, then we’ll go. And if we’re not in the mood, we won’t. And the people we love will just have to celebrate without us, because it’s been too much and we need a break.

That is what I mean by saying no. And if you feel you need an excuse to turn down an invitation, then you have one… “I’m sorry, but I have other plans.” The truth is, you do have other plans. You have plans with yourself. For next weekend, I actually put on the calendar “Us time! Everyone else is SOL :)”. Anything else that comes up during that time is a schedule conflict with our free time! I chose to do this, because sometimes you need to schedule “me time” simply to make sure that you actually get it.

Just because you have a day on the calendar with nothing scheduled, doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to fill it up if something arises. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed and anxious, and you find a block of time in your schedule where you can take time for yourself, then schedule that time for yourself and consider anything else that comes up during that time to be a conflict with previous plans. Repeat after me — “sorry, I already have plans”…because you do have plans. With yourself.

Now then…I’m off to get ready for my evening plans. I’m showered and my hair is washed, but I still have clothes to iron, makeup to apply, hair to style, and a dress to put on. Wish me luck for this final 32-hour stretch of crazy before my obligation-free time can commence!

say no






Get Healthy Month: Resources

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the final day of Get Healthy Month! You have all of the information about health and diet, and you have all the tools to help you customize and begin your diet. Now, I will share with you some incredibly valuable resources that will help you bring your journey full circle! These are all resources that I use regularly, with links.

Finding Meals and Recipes

My favorite resources for food:



Instagram: (users and hashtags…you can save posts just like on Pinterest!)

And of course — Pinterest!

The Food

My go-to app: Fooducate

My backup: Healthy Living

Online: Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The Household

My go-to app: Think Dirty

My backup: Healthy Living

Online: Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The Personal Care

My go-to app: Think Dirty

My backup: Healthy Living

Online: Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The Planning

For this, I have two methods of organization:

  1. A bullet journal with lots of customized calendars and text boxes
  2. Excel! I use spreadsheets (and Google Sheets) for meal planning and grocery lists. I love the organization and the auto-sum feature

How is that for short, sweet and to the point?! All of these resources I rely on regularly. I would say that my most frequent are the three YouTubers I listed (all of which I’m subscribed to), Instagram (where I save posts into two different folders — recipes, and plant-based), the Fooducate app, and the Think Dirty app.

With this, my friends, I leave you with the end of Get Healthy Month. I will leave all of the posts in the Get Healthy Month category under the Health tab, so you can go back and read any time you want if you need a refresher. I wish you all the best on your road to a healthier life!

And with that…coming up later this week I will update you on the goings-on in my world as of late, and more Mediterranean Mondays will be coming soon.