Can we find Mindfulness in Tech?

My iPhone can be a huge mindless distraction at times and a huge help in others. I’m sure this is the case for most of us these days. I’ve been thinking of ways to make my iPhone work more FOR me than against me lately… so that I’m feeling more of the true usefulness it can offer, rather than the tempting diversions. I’ve come across a few great apps that promote mindfulness and healthy living (beyond your basic Nike & Health fitness apps) and am very happy to share them with you! 

Daily Water: This was just so relevant for me right now I had to download it. It can remind you to drink water / hydrate yourself at different times of day and towards a goal of 8 glasses per day (or however many you want) on average. I set it to remind me 3x a day to drink water - and find that’s more than enough notifications in one day to keep water in my mind  - and mouth. If you have trouble with hydration, I recommend using an app like this for a few weeks to get yourself in the habit of drinking more, then you can delete it! 

Headspace: This is a wonderful mindfulness meditation app for beginners. The free app gives you 10 meditation sessions (they call it the Take 10) that are based in mindfulness of the body and the environment around you. The guide has a nice, relaxed, British accent and his voice is very natural and personable to me. Once you complete your first session, the next one is unlocked for you for the next day - the idea is that starting with 1 meditation, 1x a day, for 10 days will help establish a habit of creating more “headspace” in your life. 

Stop, Breathe & Think / Calm: These are 2 other meditation based apps that I like. Stop, Breathe & Think uses lots of infographics like Headspace but has some nice guided meditations on different topics that may apply to your emotional/mental state - like one on Great Compassion, Gratitude, or Being Present. The guide tends to talk a lot through these sessions - so if you find that a bit much, you can simply use their self-meditation timer that has a lovely gong sound to begin and end your session for the more seasoned user. Calm also has a self-meditation timer, timed guided sessions of any length you may want - 2, 5, 10, 20 minutes - and some nice visual relaxation scenes if you are using it on a laptop or computer. It’s a great break from long hours of computer work! 

Moment: Like I said, the iPhone can provide many distractions and mind-numbing habits. If you find you are checking your phone gratuitously for emails, social media, news, photos, games etc on a chronic basis - consider an app like Moment that will let you know just how many times you checked your phone & how much time you are spending on your device in a given day. Some days will be more than others, but you can start to be more mindful, perhaps, of exactly what you did on your phone and whether it was helping you or hurting you (or others around you). They even have a family plan to monitor the kids phone usage if you feel it’s getting out of control. Their message is “Put down your phone and get back to your life.” Sometimes, I couldn’t agree more! 

As far as apps go, there is a thing as TOO MUCH information - even when it’s trying to be useful or make life more efficient- that can add more stress than benefit to your life. :) So download with care and delete when unnecessary. Oh, the conundrum of technology! 

Summer: Season of the Heart

When I think of June I always think of the beginning of long, hot summer days balanced out by a LOT of swimming in Deep Eddy or our neighborhood pools. Summer means we are moving out of Wood (Spring) and into the Fire phase of Chinese Medicine. In fact, the Summer Solstice was upon us this week on June 21st - the longest day of sunlight in the year! 


Summertime means warmth, light, activity, elation, and socializing. In Chinese medicine, summer is also the season of the heart organ, and during this season we should strive to balance the heart organ system with our food, actions, and intention.

The heart is seen as the emperor of the body, governing the blood and blood vessels, and storing our Spirit. It acts as a leader for the body and maintains order of thought and intention. If there is no order, chaos will occur and you may have anxiety, insomnia, inappropriate behavior, discomfort around people, heart palpitations, panic attacks, or stuttering. Just as blood pumped from the heart communicates with our cells, bringing them oxygen and nutrients, our heart is also responsible for social communication and thrives on love and warmth from people.

To keep the heart in balance during the hot summer months use the following foods: salads, fruits, beets, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, melons, brown rice, tofu, celery, sesame, slightly bitter greens, or longan fruit. Eat less red meat, fats, and extremely spicy foods. Stay connected with family and friends. Balance the fire and activity of summer with enough rest and time in the water! Water balances Fire. Meditation is also a valuable tool for quieting the busy Fire-type mind.

Summer Bummers? Best natural tips to prepare for the season.

Summertime… and the livin’ is easy… and a little bit brutal, especially in Texas! Try to stock your home with some of my favorite herbal products and tips to have a stress-free season.

1. Best Sunscreen: Badger Sunscreen (Adult or Baby): Badger consistently gets the best ratings for sunscreens from the EWG and is completely natural & organic certified. Badger products are NEVER made with nanoparticles or parabens, ever. I love the lavender scented sunscreen, but they also have fragrance free adult and baby versions. Since Badger is made with Zinc oxide it will tend to be more white in color than mainstream chemical sunscreens - this is a good thing and just takes a little longer to rub in, but is well worth it for your skin.

2. Best Sunburn Remedy: Ching Wan Hung & Egg White Mask: Ching Wan Hung is an all-time favorite medicine cabinet product at my house. It is a Chinese herbal balm for burns of all sorts - rug burns, sun burns, steam burns, even severe burns in hospitals! - it is amazing. Keep this at home all summer and see how handy it can be. If you are really in a pickle - whisk some egg whites and brush on a mask to your burned skin and let sit until it dries. You can repeat this remedy for several days until your skin looks healed and the redness has gone down. It’s truly remarkable!

3. Best Bug Bite Remedy: White Flower Oil & Cedarwood Oil: The mosquitoes. Thorns in our sides. I like to have these oils on hand for when the bites get too itchy or painful to handle. Dap 1-2 drops of oil into a cotton ball and apply it to irritated skin. With little ones, you might want to keep a vial of diluted cedarwood oil on hand for applications, as using the pure essential oil can be too strong for them, although the white flower oil is ready to go!

4. Best Ear Ache Remedy: Onion steam & Grapefruit Seed Extract: Long ago, I posted my favorite home remedy for ear aches - the onion steam. You can read all the details of that right here. If feels so good, and releases so much pressure on the inner ear. In addition to the steam, for swimmer’s ear or bacterial ear infections you can easily use hydrogen peroxide drops in each ear, or Grapefruit Seed Extract ear drops. These have always worked so well for me - tea tree oil & grapefruit seed oil are both anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, and anti-microbial, and the combination of the two really cuts out any pain-causing junk. Put a couple drops in each ear and wait for the liquid to penetrate deeply inside the ear canal before shaking it out.

5. Best Acne/Skin Products: Wake up and smell the Rose! Rose is sort of a cure-all for redness problems. In homeopathy, like treats like, so rose (being red) can treat a multitude of red skin issues while promoting a healthier, softer, smoother looking complexion. My favorite rose-infused products are Weleda Wild Rose Facial lotion, Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater, and Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel (alcohol-free). I use these simple products daily on my face - especially during the hot and harsh months - and have never had less skin issues in my life.

Do you have any favorite remedies to combat summer bummers? I’d love to hear them. Now, let’s go swimming!

Health after Baby

As many of you are aware, I had my first baby almost 2 years ago, a boy named Woods. He has truly changed our lives. He is 23 months old now & I still don’t feel like I did before baby - I am still tired many days, my body is different, I’m not exercising quite like I did before, and my mind is constantly with him to some degree. I feel some of what we term “blood and yang deficiency” in TCM. Basically an imbalance of depletion. It makes sense! Little sleep, higher stress, hormonal fluctuation, less exercise, and eating sub-optimally many days while on mom-duty all adds up over time! I think some people may view their health practitioner as someone who never gets sick & has all the answers etc… but we are just like you. I have had to constantly recommit myself to my health over the past (almost) 2 years after becoming a mom. I recall my midwife telling me something when we were talking about how we were feeling in our new state of parenthood after the birth - we were drained & struggling with sleep, and all the great change seemed daunting- and she said, “Parenthood, at its essence, is the act of recommitting yourself over and over and over again to a cause.” Boy, those words ring loudly in my ears many days - but not just in relation to parenthood, but to myself and my work and my health and my relationship as well. I think it is some of the best wisdom I’ve ever been given. So that’s what I’m doing again now, recommitting myself to my own cause of healing and cooking and creating and just simply doing the best I can. And hoping that hearing those words may help some of you out there, too! 

Pure Samoa "Girl Scout Cookies"

Who doesn’t love girl scout cookies? Come on, most of you are craving them every time you pass by their little stands outside of Walgreens or the grocery store - I know I do. Problem is, they are really bad for you! I will praise the day when the girl scouts stop using hydrogenated oils and so many processed ingredients in their treats. I mean, it’s about time, right! 

My all time favorite girl scout cookie is the Samoa:

Dark chocolate, coconut, caramel, shortbread cookie. I crave these things normally during girl scout season, BUT this year my sister sent me a “fake samoa” recipe that was full of healthy stuff, and I thought - I’m gonna break the cycle and try these instead! I think it worked. They have been in the freezer for a few days now, and I haven’t missed a real samoa at all. They are different, mind you - the texture is different and they need to be frozen, but the flavor is very close to the “real thing”, even though the “real thing” is more full of “fake” ingredients than these are. Get me? See what you think. 

Almost Raw Samoa Cookie Bars:

(modified from Cooking a la Mel)

For the “shortbread base”:

    • 2 cups walnuts, or walnut and pecan mix
    • 1 cup unsweetened coconut
    • ¼ cup raw honey
    • 1 t vanilla extract
    • ¼ t sea salt
For the coconut “caramel” layer:
    • 1 ½ cups dates, soaked for about 10 minutes in hot water
    • ½ cup coconut milk
    • 1 t vanilla
    • 1/8 t salt
    • 1C unsweetened, shredded coconut
For the chocolate topping:
  • 1 C dark chocolate chips

For the shortbread base:

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts and coconut together until in fine crumbs. Add in the honey, vanilla, and sea salt, and process until a moist dough forms.

Press the dough into a parchment lined 9×9 inch baking pan.

For the coconut “caramel” layer:

Toast the shredded coconut at 350ºF for about 5-8 minutes, until golden (be careful not to burn it). Allow it to cool while you make the “caramel.”

After soaking the dates, drain the water, and pulse in a food processor until a paste forms. Add the coconut milk, vanilla, and salt, and process until smooth. Add the shredded coconut, and pulse until just combined.

Scoop the coconut “caramel” mixture out, and spread it evenly across the top of the “shortbread” base.

Transfer to the freezer for about 15 minutes, until set.

For the chocolate topping:

Place the chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl, and microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until fully melted.

Remove the bars from the freezer. Transfer the melted chocolate to a ziplock bag using a rubber spatula. Snip off the corner of the bag, and drizzle the chocolate over the bars.

Place back in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate has hardened, then take out the whole sheet of cookie with parchment paper (it will be hardened and set firmly), cut it into squares large or small. Place them in an airtight container & store in the freezer. 

They get melty the longer they are outside of the freezer, so enjoy cold and eat often.  

Ridiculously Easy Raw Chocolate Bars

Some of you might think making your own chocolate sounds like a chore, one which you would be more than happy to simply leave to the professionals. I’m here to tell you this: making your own chocolate could not be ANY easier than this recipe I’m about to share. It’s only 3 basic ingredients. No cooking involved. Just mixing & freezing. Making raw chocolate - without cooking or heat involved - is actually wonderfully healthy for you as well. It is completely, 100% guilt-free dessert! I’ve been mixing up some batches lately and here are my favorites picks for superfood-infused raw chocolates that will make your heart sing: 

Homemade Raw Dark Chocolate:

3 Tbsp organic, unrefined coconut oil

3 Tbsp raw cacao powder

1 tsp raw honey (you can adjust more for taste)

Mix coconut oil and cacao powder in a small bowl and set that bowl inside a larger bowl filled somewhat with warm water - leave the cacao mixture here until the coconut oil softens. Mix well. Stir in honey and any other liquid or powder ingredients you might add (see my variations below), pour into a small dish lined with parchment paper. Freeze until solid - just an hour or so. EAT! 

Raw Maca - Goji - Chocolate (pictured above): Mix in 1 tsp maca root powder to cacao mixture and stir. Sprinkle with goji berries before freezing. I call this the Yin/Yang chocolate. Maca root is a yang tonic, goji berry is a yin tonic - so together they build the yin (substance) and yang (function) energies of our body. A great chocolate to activate your kidneys, which help with our most primal functions of reproduction/fertility and stress recovery. 

Raw Orange Peel - Almond Chocolate: Sprinkle orange zest and flaked almond slivers atop raw chocolate mixture before freezing. This one’s not really on the therapeutic side, unless tasting really good is enough therapy in itself?

Raw Ginger - Turmeric Chocolate: Add ¼ tsp ginger powder & ¼ tsp turmeric powder to cacao mixture and stir. Freeze as is, or top with more fresh grated ginger before freezing. Ginger and turmeric are both invigorating, anti-inflammatory herbs that can help with arthritis and bursitis conditions. If you have pain or poor circulation, go ahead and pump up your chocolate with these. 


Fall: Season of the Lungs

In traditional Chinese medicine, during fall we are most susceptible to dryness which can affect the lungs, skin (what we call the “outer lung”), and digestion. Common signs of disharmony in the fall are thirst, dry nose and skin, itching, and sore throat or cough. There are a number of things we can do to combat dryness and fortify our bodies for the coming winter months. These tips will help you stay balanced during the fall season, and prepare you for a healthy winter! 

1. Drink. More. Water. Sounds easy, but we often forget this simple act. Hydrating yourself well will prevent your body from getting too dry and help your organs stay healthy and happy. Your lungs especially like to stay “moist” and freak out when they get too dry - coughing, burning, bronchitis, etc can occur. So drink up! 

2. Incorporate moistening foods into your meals. Pears, apples, persimmons, figs, spinach, pumpkin and squash are all moistening foods. Eat these fall foods in abundance and you will set your body up for a healthy winter. Soups and steamed foods are helpful, as well as other “yin” foods like tofu, white fish, yams, & edamame. 

3. Sleep more. As the days grow shorter, allow your body to rest more. We are moving out of the highly active period of summer. Fall is the time to store up our energy for the harsher winter months ahead & going to bed earlier or practicing restorative exercise can benefit our health during this time. 

4. Organize, Cleanse, & Let go. Fall and Spring are both great seasons for organizing your life and letting go of what you don’t need. Try a gentle cleanse, clean out the kitchen or closets, and let go of old grudges or emotional grief. It’s a good time to gather yourself together and start a clean slate in preparation for winter. 

5. Cover up. Especially if you are one to get sick easily or catch colds in the cooler months, don’t leave home without your scarf or hat. Although it may still feel like summer to us now, windy and cooler days are ahead and cold fronts may sweep in suddenly. Our neck and head are most vulnerable to wind and pathogenic illnesses, so cover up and protect your qi from exposure to the elements. 

And…  get acupuncture, of course! Acupuncture will strengthen your resilience and help you make a healthy transition from fall to winter. 

(Thanks to AOMA and The Web That has No Weaver for content inspiration)

Natural Solutions to Gastritis

Millions of folks are dealing with stomach issues in America. This is not new. The commercials and ads for acid reflux medications are not new either. Getting VERY old, in fact, in my opinion. Here is some information that may be new to you, some natural tips on dealing with your heartburn, especially when due to inflammation of the stomach lining, or gastritis.

Many people think acid reflux/heartburn issues are due to too much stomach acid, and that the pills you can take for it will neutralize this acid from causing you pain. That’s not entirely correct. Most of these problems are due to a completely normal & healthy amount of stomach acids just going the wrong way, or irritating a place that is damaged from some other cause. Here are a few natural ideas for reducing stomach inflammation, thereby relieving the symptoms of heartburn from gastritis:

  • Carrot juice or Cabbage juice: Drink about 1 C per day to relieve inflammation in your stomach lining. 
  • Aloe Vera Juice: Use up to 4 oz of aloe juice per day to relieve gut inflammation. This can also be used as a laxative, so be cautious with that. 
  • L-glutamine powder: Try this amino acid supplement as a powder form, and it will soothe gut inflammation and can even heal stomach ulcers. 
  • Pistachio nuts: Eating pistachios is a great way to get fiber and prebiotic action for your gut to encourage healthy bacteria. They are also naturally low in calories so make a great snack. 
  • DGL Licorice root extract: This supplement acts by increasing the mucous coating in your esophagus, stomach & intestines, thereby protecting that tissue from irritation by stomach acids. 

*thanks to posts from Andrew Weil and Leo Galland on the latest info about acid reflux and gastritis*