Tea of the Month: November 2014

I actually tried a new seasonal tea that many of you may be interested in for the holidays.  It’s the Twinings Winter Spice Herbal Tea.  This is an herbal tea with a chamomile base and flavored with apple, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.

This tea is caffeine free so you may have it at any time of day.  I’ve been drinking this tea mostly at night in place of my usual chamomile tea.  It’s warming and has a festive flavor that’s great without any additives.    However, I think this tea would be a great base for a holiday cider.

Last year I shared my Simple Spiced Apple Cider recipe that I’m thinking of combining with this tea.  If I try it I’ll be sure to share the results.

Do you have a favorite holiday tea?  If so, please share in the comments below.





*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Green Beauty Stocking Stuffers – $10 and Under!





We are three days away from the biggest shopping day of the year.  I know that many are making lists of items to get for loved ones on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  I’ve always loved the little things that I get in stockings.  They are always a surprise and very special.  So, I thought you all might be interested in some of my favorite green beauty/ skin care  stocking stuffers.

The best part about these items is that each of these items retails for $10 or less!  The price points of these items may allow some of you to try new products, stock up on favorites or introduce newbies to the world of non-toxic beauty.  If you have any others to add please share them in the comments below.  Your suggestions are welcome!

Budget-Friendly Green Beauty Stocking Stuffers

1. Honeybee Gardens Black Magic Natural Mascara  ($9.50) – a great every day mascara. It has a very light formulation which makes it easy to layer on more than one coat.

2. Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Bath, Body & Massage Oil  ($9.79) – great for sealing in moisture into the skin or the hair.  It’s a true multi-purpose product.

3. Weleda Skin Food (8.89)- a thick cream that’s perfect for dry skin.  This is a go-to hand cream for me in the winter months.

4. Burt’s Bees Lip Crayon in Napa Vineyard ($9.00) – a beautiful matte red that’s great for any skin tone.

5.  EcoTools Large Powder Brush  ($7.49) – a soft, affordable, eco-friendly brush. What’s not to love?

6.  Blum Naturals Dry and Sensitive Skin Daily Cleansing Towelettes with Chamomile, 30 Towelettes ($6.99) – great for removing make-up before using a cleanser.  I also take these with me when traveling.

7.   Unearth Malee Organic Soap Chai Tea Chocolate ($6.50) – a decadent smelling soap that’s gentle enough for my sensitive skin.

8.  Pacifica Indian Coconut Nectar Solid Perfume ($8.44) – a mild scent that can be worn year-round.  It travels easily as  well without concerns of spillage.

9.   Zoya Miniture Nail Polish in Oswin ($5.00) – gorgeous non-toxic lacquer.  Zoya nail polishes are a must-have!

10.  Fig & Yarrow Nail & Cuticle Salve ($10.00) – use for manicures or any time to want to soothe your cuticles.

11.  Deep Steep Candy Mint Foot Polish ($9.95) – great for pampering!  This scrub gently polishes dead skin cells away, smells just like mints and has a cooling  effect on the skin. So refreshing….

12.  A Ray of Holiday Sunshine Rachel Roy 3 Pack ($7.49) – great lip balms!  I am a lip balm addict and I continually go back to EOS balms. This particular set is a limited edition just for the holidays.

13.  Nubian Heritage Body Wash Coconut & Papaya ($7.99) – a luscious feeling body wash that moisturizes the skin and smells divine.


Happy Shopping!





*Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.


Reflections on Republic of Yoga, Cary NC

Republic of Yoga, Exterior

“Republic of Yoga fosters self-discovery,
renewal and creativity through the
ancient system of Hatha yoga.”

Do you take enough time to reflect on “you”?   This is the question I asked myself several months ago when I visited Republic of Yoga in Cary, NC.  I was asked to come to a class and experience all they have to offer and within the first minutes of class, this question resounded in my head.  As I sat on the floor with my eyes closed, breathing and focusing inward, as directed by  Nicole Nichols (founder, co-owner and yoga instructor), I realized that it had been entirely too long since I took time to look within and tune out the world around me.

Nicole Nichols Founder

Nicole Nichols,

For those of you unfamiliar with this yoga studio it was founded by the talented Nicole Nichols, who has over 18 years of experience teaching yoga in New York and around the world. She now shares her passion for life and yoga practice with others in Cary,  North Carolina.  The studio focuses on the practice of:

“Hatha yoga in the flowing Vinyasa style 

where breath and movement synchronize, like meditation in motion.”  

Prior to visiting her studio I had practiced yoga in the past but on a very limited basis.  So, I was quite nervous about accepting the offer to attend a class.  However, any concerns that I had were soon put to rest.  Upon entering the studio I immediately noticed how Nicole greeted students by name and with a warm smile.  Her bright and welcoming demeanor is contagious and helped to put me more at ease.

Moving on the the class itself, Nicole’s level of experience is evident in the ease and competence she exhibits when teaching. There were yogis there with various levels of experience which can be intimidating.  However, I found that the Nicole gave clear instructions that I was able to follow.  Where I was lacking she offered me encouragement and extra instruction without disturbing the overall “flow” of practice.  She was equally attentive to other members of the course as well.  Not only was Nicole encouraging but every one there helped add to the overall atmosphere of calm energy and support.

Although I felt at ease and fully supported in my endeavors, I still found the course to be physically challenging.  I felt a positive pressure to reach further and make demands on my body that I didn’t it was think capable of.  When it was all said and done, I was reminded me that it’s absolutely necessary to push yourself because we are much more capable than we allow ourselves to believe.  Also, to reach higher levels of achievement you have to take advantage of all aspects of your being (body, mind and spirit).  I left the studio feeling motivated to dedicate more time to reflecting on me so that I can answer my initial question in the affirmative.

Top: Article showing Nicole teaching yoga in Time Square. Bottom: Studio interior, Republic of Yoga

Top: Article showing Nicole teaching yoga in Time Square
Bottom: Studio interior, Republic of Yoga


If you are ever in the Cary, NC area consider stopping in at Republic of Yoga (yep, they have drop-in classes and your first one is free)!  They offer a wide range of classes to fit your schedule and practice level, a welcoming environment, professional instruction and a beautiful space for you to challenge yourself from the inside out.

Thanks Nicole & Republic of Yoga!


Roasted Carrot Apple Coconut Smoothie

carrotsmoothieSmoothies can get boring!  Please don’t send the health police after me for saying that because I’m just telling my truth.  Back in the day you wouldn’t catch me drinking smoothies. I just wanted a plate of yummy food to chew and enjoy.  So, smoothies absolutely lacked appeal (no matter how good for me they were).  I’m over that now and love incorporating healthy smoothies into my diet but I need to mix it up.  I’m kind of tired of my usual avocado green smoothie or my raspberry/blueberry special.

I thought that it would be fun to take the Williams-Sonoma Smoothie Week challenge to create as smoothie that is “Not Your Typical Smoothie”.  I love trying and creating new recipes.  Some work out and some don’t but it’s always a fun process.  What I came up with was a Roasted Carrot Apple Coconut Smoothie.  Roasting the carrots  brings out even more  of their sweetness and adds a depth of flavor that I think my normal concoctions have been lacking.  While I don’t think that  it’s completely weird, I am sure that it’s far from typical!


1 cup carrots, roasted

1/2 cup diced apple, peeled (I used gala apples)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

2 teaspoons coconut sugar

dash of sea salt

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup almond milk

3/4 cup coconut water

1 tablespoon coconut manna or shredded coconut (optional)


1.  To roast your carrots, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Toss carrots in melted coconut oil, cinnamon, coconut sugar, nutmeg and sea salt.  Place the carrots on a pan and roast until they soften. This will take around 30 minutes. You will have to rotate them half way through this process.

2.  Allow carrots to cool completely.

3.  Add carrots and all remaining ingredients to the blender and process until smooth.

 *Tips:  You could always  roast more carrots for dinner and use leftovers for your morning smoothie.  Double duty!!  Also the carrots need to be blended smoothly, so be sure to use a good blender.  If you like you may check the Williams-Sonoma blender page for options.

carrot collage

There you have it…a Roasted Carrot Apple Coconut smoothie. Try this smoothie in the morning or as a slightly sweet treat that has added health value.  Do you have any smoothie creations that are unique and delicious?  If so , please share them with us in the comments.



Tea of the Month: October 2014



I completely forgot about my tea of the month for October!  This one is a good one that I was waiting to share and I cannot believe that it has slipped my mind.  Anyway, I had an amazing spa day in October at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, NC. This place has offered my most favorite spa experience thus far.  When I didn’t think it would be better, it was.  While I was relaxing and reading by the fireplace, I took a chance on one of the teas they feature and I was not disappointed.

The Verbena Mint Organic herbal tea by Mighty Leaf combines verbena with Moroccan mint for a perfect combination.  It has such a smooth and refreshing flavor…simple yet impactful.  I was already relaxed and feeling easy but this little cup of tea was the icing on the cake.

madewithOver-4 I actually drank several cups and surprisingly I fell asleep.  Although I only had this tea that day, it was a stand out for October and has definitely made it’s way onto my Christmas wish list.









Book Review: The Racketeer by John Grisham

RacketeerAuthor: John Grisham

Publisher:  Random House (Bantam Dell) 

Summary:  The Racketeer by John Grisham is a story in which we meet Malcolm Bannister, former attorney and current inmate, at a federal prison camp near Frostburg, Maryland.  Malcolm knows why federal judge, Raymond Fawcett, was murdered and who carried out the deed.  This information is his “golden ticket” and the means by which he gains the attention of the FBI.  However, what is Bannister’s end game…freedom, revenge or some other objective? Trust me, you have to read the entire book to find out.

My Thoughts:  Before getting into my thoughts on the story line, I want to briefly discuss the narrator and main character, Malcolm Bannister (former lawyer-turned convict).  The first sentence of the book reads: “I am a lawyer, and I am in prison.”  The repetition of the words (“I am” verses “I’m”)  made me wonder: “Is he attempting to draw attention to this identity?  and “How does he want the reader to view him?”.  Maybe this is looking too deeply into the words but in this case these words matter.  Bannister’s public image is completely tarnished in the story line. So, I think an integral part of understanding his perspective is recognizing his need to reestablish his identity on his own terms.

Other than the narrator’s concerns about how he is identified, I found him interesting enough to want to learn more about his story.   I have stopped reading many stories because the narrator put me to sleep.  Fortunately, Bannister intrigued me and  I wanted to learn more about how he ended up in prison. More importantly, I was curious about the ride Grisham was going to take me on to get those answers.

Now, let’s get into the story line.  I appreciate that we learn about how this lawyer ended up in prison (with sufficient detail) fairly early in the story. However, when Bannister reveals to the FBI that he has information that could lead to the arrest of the murderer of Judge Raymond Fawcett, one may start to think that this is a simple “barter for freedom story”.  In true Grisham style the plot line is not quite that simple. There are some surprises, deceptions and double-dealing in this story which add to its appeal.   As Bannister tells the story, we see that he has some revenge in mind when he agrees to assist the government (the same body that is responsible for his predicament), in apprehending the guilty party. He has a scheme to right some wrongs and as these plans unfold Grisham picks up his writing speed.  He begins to weave together plans and actors that assist the main character on his quest for retribution/justice (it’s a matter of perspective).  So, it’s important to slow down and pay attention or you might miss some much needed details.

I must admit that given my legal background,  I may look at legal plot lines more critically than I should.  Honestly, at points during this novel I rolled my eyes or thought “Umm…yeah right”.  With that said, I kept reading and had an overall enjoyable experience. The story line kept me engaged and pleasantly preoccupied with anticipating the next turn of events. This novel is a great read for a relaxed weekend and I would advise you read it with that frame of mind.  Though it has loosely interpreted elements of the law and the appeal of a wronged man getting his due,  it does not rise to the level of a “legal thriller” which you might expect from Grisham.  With clear expectations in mind, I say that this one is still worth the effort.

Purchase this book and others Grisham from Amazon or the publisher.

*Disclaimer:  This book review solely represents my thoughts and opinions.  I did not receive any compensation in any form for this review. This post contains affiliate links.  The photo above is the property of http://www.jgrisham.com.  

Thanks for reading!


Top 5 Skin Care Tips for Fall!



Over on the Organic Bath Co. blog I shared my thoughts on the changing of seasons as well as my concerns about dry skin.  This time of year is so lovely…..cooler weather, beautiful changing foliage, cozy sweaters and homemade pumpkin chai lattes.  Well, at least that’s what I enjoy about the transition from summer to the cooler seasons of fall and winter.  However, I don’t enjoy the fact that even the hint of cooler weather means that my skin becomes much drier than usual.  I experience chapped lips and dry itchy skin. Fortunately, I know that this is coming so I’ve managed to find some ways to enjoy the season and keep my skin comfortable and moisturized.  Here are my top five tips for moisturized skin during the fall and winter:

  1. Stay Hydrated:  Properly hydrated skin begins on the inside, as does all optimum states of health and beauty.  So, I like to drink plenty of water during the day.  I also drink coconut water, particularly during or after working out.  It both hydrates the body and replenishes it with natural electrolytes.  When looking at external ways to hydrate your skin, consider using a humidifier within your home.  Creating an environment that replaces some of that humidity can help you avoid the harsh dryness that comes with many electric heating systems.
  1. Eat Nutrient Rich Foods:  As with drinking water, the nutrients that you take in greatly impact the feel and appearance of your skin.  So, focus on eating a balanced diet complete with foods that are nutrient dense and free of questionable ingredients and empty calories.  I know that we all probably love a slice of pumpkin pie or a warm latte.  Treats in moderation are fine but don’t overdo it.  Also, I prefer making these treats myself with as many local ingredients as possible.  It’s much easier to track the sources of these ingredients and ensure that you are putting quality products into your body.
  1. Exfoliate Regularly: Dead skin cells can lay on the top of your skin and make it difficult for your skin to absorb moisture from external sources.  During the colder months of the year I have to exfoliate a lot more to maintain moisturized skin.  I use gentle, organic scrubs all over my body, such as Organic Bath’s organic body scrubs.  Polishing away those dead skin cells makes all the difference in my skin’s ability to absorb oils and butters.
  1. Moisturize with Natural Oils and Butters:  I’ve learned that not every product that claims to be moisturizing lives up to billing.  In fact, some products that contain ingredients such as petroleum actually block moisture from entering your skin.  So, I choose to use as many non-toxic and organic body oils and butters as possible.  As I said, I have dry skin, so in cooler months I primarily use butters on the driest areas of my body and I continue using a variety of natural oils for my face.  I apply these products right out of the shower to make sure that those natural oils are able to lock in the moisture.  This method works like a charm.
  1. Dress For the Weather:  We all have to go out at some point.  No matter how much you prepare the natural elements can zap the moisture right out of your skin. If there is a fight between my delicate skin and the weather, the weather wins hands-down! Mother nature is powerful and not to be underestimated.   So, be proactive and cover up if you are going to spend time outdoors.  I do…and I just love the chance to wear pretty scarves. :)

I’m sure that this is going to be a great season for all of us.  Remember, to try these tips for keeping soft and moisturized skin during the next several months.  If you have any other tips please share them below in the comments.

Happy Fall!



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