December 24

Taking Care of our Whole Body

 

wholefoodsMy journey to becoming vegan did not start out with the food I put into my body but with the products that I put onto my body. Like many, I bought skincare products based on commercials, word of mouth and often what was on sale. I never spent any time considering what ingredients were in the products I used and had no idea that a sentient being might be harmed so that my mascara didn’t make my eyes sting. I was unconsciously incompetent. When I was about 31, my boyfriend (now husband) Steve and I bought our first home and moved into a new neighborhood near Denver. While getting to know my neighborhood, I began to shop at a new (new to me anyway!) grocery store called Wild Oats. Wild Oats was what friends called a “health food store”. I had heard of these mystical places before but this was my first experience actually shopping in one. While wandering through their health and beauty section, I began to notice phrases printed on the bottles and containers that I had never seen before. Things like “cruelty-free”, “not tested on animals” and “animal-product free”. What??!!! What in the world could have been cruel about my lotion and tested on what? I was in shock! I had just become consciously incompetent. And that is when my life changed forever! Over the next several years of my life, I learned everything I could about the products I used on my body and slowly became consciously competent of anything that I bought from my shampoo to my body wash to my make-up. And then one day I woke up and realized that for all I was doing to help myself and the precious bunnies and rats and mice that had been suffering because of my choices, I still ate meat! And that was the day that I finally reached unconscious competence. That day I made the most profound decision ever. I became a vegan and ended my role in all animals’ suffering! That was 14 years ago and I haven’t looked back since!

logoWhat has helped me throughout this journey has been the Whole Body section of the grocery store chain Whole Foods. They have applied the same high standards for the food they sell to their personal care products. Over the course of two years, they examined every personal care ingredient that is sold in Whole Body and created a set of Premium Body Care Standards. First and foremost, they do not allow any animal testing for any of the personal care products…EVER! Additionally, they encourage their vendor partners to use plant-based and naturally derived ingredients, pure essential oil fragrances, gentle preservatives and non-petroleum based ingredients. To be labelled as a Premium Body Care product there are several steps that must be met. First, the products need to offer results – and only contain ingredients that are necessary for the product to do what it says it will do. Next, where the ingredients are sourced must be as close to nature and as minimally processed as possible. Followed by the environmental impact they cause. Every product we use eventually makes its way down the drain and into our environment so these products must not only have minimal impact when they are manufactured but also when they are used. The next stage is safety. Since what goes on the body goes into the body and there is no governmental regulation, Whole Body has done the research for us. All Premium Body Care product ingredients are labeled accurately, have established safety data or are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergies. To be specific, they have identified over 400 ingredients that are unacceptable. A short list includes parabens, polypropylene, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates. Though preservatives are necessary in body care products, they only allow milder versions that have a lower likelihood of causing allergic reactions and sensitivities. Chemical based fragrances (that are now becoming linked with not only exacerbating asthma but also causing it), are replaced by fragrances made using natural essential oils or components of the essential oils. Whole Body sells over 2500 skincare products that fit within the guidelines I just listed with more being added every day. When making your decision on what products will be the safest for you and our planet, look for the Premium Body Care Standards logo. With the fact that the U.S. government does not EVER require health studies or pre-market testing for our health, beauty, skincare and cosmetic products, I will forever be grateful to Whole Body for doing much of the research for me!

Though every Whole Foods has a Whole Body section, I had the pleasure of visiting my first stand-alone Whole Body Lifestyle store recently in Sebastopol! This is only the second Whole Body store to open EVER! And it is right here in beautiful western Sonoma County. Now, of course, all of the things that I mentioned are important to me. I only want to use products that are good for me and for the planet. But what is most important to me is if the product is vegan! Along with a couple other local bloggers – Dale with savvy spice and Adrienne with The Rich Life On A Budget – I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with each of the vendors at the event. And here is what I found!

IMG_1342Gabriel De Santino, Founder and CEO of Gabriel Cosmetics and ZuZu Luxe watched as his grandmother made homeopathic cosmetics from seaweed, kelp and herbs that he helped gather by the ocean in Mexico. As a naturopath and herbalist, his grandmother knew of the healing and revitalizing properties of ocean plant life. As he grew up and entered the field of beauty, he used these healthy alternatives to create clean cosmetics. The cosmetics are 100% vegan and cruelty-free; certified gluten-free and are free of coal tar derivatives, FD&C coloring, parabens, mineral oil, lanolin, talc, propylene glycol, hydrogenated oils, carmine, lead and nano-sized particles! I have been using ZuZu cosmetics for years and love them. And now I can add Gabriel Cosmetics and try some new colors in lipstick, gloss and eye shadow!

IMG_1335 (1)I have always been a huge fan of Evan Healy products. In fact, I found them for the first time in the Whole Body section of my store in Raleigh, NC about seven years ago. I had always had oily skin so the concept of using oil and water to care for my skin seemed very counterintuitive to me! But there was an Evan Healy representative there that day and I was really searching for a product that I could trust and would help my skin look its best. She explained that our skin uses a protective layer of sweat glands and sebaceous glands that work together to produce a thin layer of lipids (oil) and perspiration (water). This is called our acid mantle. This acid mantle is our skin’s protective barrier from disease. When this delicate balance between acidity and alkalinity is disrupted, our skin’s ability to protect itself is weakened. And her products help restore that natural balance by using oils and waters from the plant kingdom! And I love the intimate connection they have with the product. From the fields and forests where they gather the plants to the lighting of the stills and the pressing of the nuts into oil, every formula is hand blended, hand labelled and hand packaged. Such a beautiful connection! All Evan Healy products are certified organic, non-GMO and vegan!

Shikai was formed in 1970 by Dr. Dennis Sepp, an organic and medicinal IMG_1373chemist. He began exploring the unique properties of certain plants and how they could benefit our hair and skin. One of his first studies was done with shikakai – a plant grown in India that was well known for its ability to clean hair, leave it soft and shiny but not dry it or the scalp. He created his first shampoo and the rest is history. Shikai now makes over 50 products from start to finish in their Santa Rosa facilities. And Dr. Sepp continues to oversee the formulation and manufacture of all of the products. All 50 products are cruelty free and free of all animal products. In fact, they have a Master Ingredient List right on their website that was most recently updated in August 2015. Bravo Shikai!

IMG_1337Three Sisters Apothecary makes hand crafted artisan soaps in small batches using high quality, cruelty free ingredients. This adventure started when the founders’ daughter came into this world at 3 lbs, 1 ounce! She began growing and making organic baby food, questioning every immunization and even making her own soap for her daughter! Now they make this soap together! They even make a soap for our dogs. All the ingredients are listed on the website and they all appear to be vegan-friendly!

IMG_1333My husband and I have both been using ACURE facial cleansing products for a couple years. In addition to skincare, they offer facial oils, beneficial oils for hair, skin and scalp, body wash, body lotion, bath soap, dry oil body spray, physical sunscreen (vs. toxic chemical), lip care, hair care and baby products. I have to admit that I had no idea they offered so many products! Their products are made with organic ingredients, no petro chemicals, sulfate-free, paraben free, cruelty free, no synthetic fragrances, gluten free and no mineral oil. Kristy Guerra founded ACURE to honor her grandmother who battled breast cancer for a decade in hopes of bringing awareness to the importance of healthy skin care made without toxins. Part of their “green’ culture includes planting a tree through Trees for the Future for every lotion that is sold and ten cents from every hair care unit sold goes to Water.org. They us 100% plant and food based ingredients. This does include beeswax in a limited number of their products.

IMG_1378My husband has been a huge fan of Dr. Hauschka products for years. They are a German organic, biodynamic skin care company founded in 1967 that offers skin care for our face and body, cosmetics, deodorants, body oils, foot creams, nail & cuticle oils and bath & shower products. But it all began when Dr. Hauschka began making natural, alcohol free homeopathic medicines in 1935. Though it was a huge success, it was banned by the Nazis and he and his future wife were both imprisoned before finally settling in Bad Boll/Eckwalden in the 1950s. They have an area of just over 11 acres where they grow 150 different nurturing plants using biodynamic methods. Most of the seeds for the next year’s cultivation come from their own plants. And they tend to more than 25 compost heaps that are then converted into high-quality soil! When they can’t grow it themselves, they find renewable resources all over the world to use. This provides them with abundant quantities of the ingredients they need while also benefitting the earth and providing work for local communities. Whenever possible, they source ingredients from biodynamic or organic farms and when that is not available they initiate the organic farming project themselves. Again, making jobs and supporting local communities. They literally have partners around the world and are currently working with the World Health Organization to offer about 700 farmers the opportunity to work and earn an income using organic rose cultivation methods rather than becoming opium producers. Along with their own bee colonies, they are always thrilled when other animals make a home in their gardens! They offer 48 vegan products that include face care, body care, bath & shower and cosmetics!

IMG_1381Aura Cacia offers high quality essential oils and aromatherapy products. Using their own ethical and sustainable sourcing program, their goal is to always guarantee high-quality oils from source to shelf. Unlike many companies, they believe in full ingredient disclosure – you will see every ingredient listed in order of quantity used. You will know exactly what is in the bottle you purchase! Aura Cacia products are never tested on animals and they contain no animal by-products with the exception of beeswax in some of their products.

I had such a wonderful time learning more about products that I already trusted and those that were new to me. I really enjoyed the stand-alone concept of the Whole Body Lifestyle store. It has the feel of a cosmetics and skincare boutique and is much calmer and relaxing then being featured in the middle of a bustling grocery store. I hope that we see more of these open up. And a big thanks to Amy Pellegrini, Whole Foods’ Marketing and Communication Lead – North Bay and her wonderful team for inviting me and sharing this new concept.

If you are looking for clean, toxin free, cruelty-free, vegan products, be sure to check out your local Whole Foods. And the next time you are up in Sebastopol be sure to stop by the new Whole Body Lifestyle store. I hope you love it as much as I did! I look forward to seeing you there and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

And to learn some tips on improving your eating habits, visit this link from Health Ambition. Though not all suggestions are vegan, they offer some great common sense tips like minimizing processed foods & caffeine, eliminating soda (especially diet!) and as we vegans already know…eat lots of organic, real whole plant-based foods! To read the entire article, follow the link HERE!

 

 

 

 

December 17

Luminance Skincare – Organic, Vegan, Handmade…Perfect!

My relationship with Luminance Skincare began in April of this year. I noticed one of their ads on Facebook and thought to myself…hmmm, that sounds promising but I really want to make more of an effort to buy locally. A week or two went by and while I was tweeting, I noticed them once again. Whether it was a sign or just the fact that the internet knows everything I have ever looked at and done online, I decided it was time to learn more. What I found out is that not only does Luminance Skincare offer vegan, organic, (mostly) raw and always toxin free products but it IS local! Kim Emanuel, the founder and formulator of Luminance Skincare, handcrafts all of his products from his studio in Benicia. It all began when they found that his wife Priscilla’s migraines were triggered by synthetic and toxic ingredients in her skincare products. Specifically, it was the synthetic petrochemical fragrances that precipitated these severe, debilitating headaches for Priscilla. Their search for “clean”, toxin-free products was made nearly impossible by the fact that almost everything being manufactured these days is loaded with harmful ingredients ranging from those synthetic fragrances to petrochemical oils, nano-particle metals and gums made of animal products. Scary stuff! All of this resonated so loudly with me. I have always had sensitive skin and the longer I consume a diet free of animal products and processed ingredients, the more sensitive I am when some of these nasties touch my skin! And though I don’t get migraines like Priscilla, when I am exposed to the sometimes as many as 200+ ingredients used to create one artificial fragrance, I begin to cough, sneeze and am sometimes congested for days. In their search, they found out the same thing that most of us have. That no matter how “natural” these products claim to be…they aren’t! And not that I trust much the FDA has to say anyway but though many of the most commonly used ingredients are known carcinogens they remain completely unregulated because we do not consume them. I guess the FDA is the only one who didn’t know that what we put on our skin ends up in our blood stream and our baby’s umbilical cord too! So, instead of giving up and accepting the sad state of our skincare products, Kim left Silicon Valley and his pilgrimage to help his wife turned into his passion to create the finest, cleanest skincare products on the planet!

My opinion is that one of the biggest downfalls of using a product based on someone else’s review is the fact that the product is never used for long. The person doing the review may use the product for three days or a week but as far as I am concerned, even with skin as sensitive as mine, I can typically use anything for a couple days without seeing any reaction or outbreak. It is really the long-term affect and benefits that I want to know about. So I set out to really learn what these products would do for me and if they were something I could commit to for the long-term and finally end my search for perfect skincare! I placed my first order in April and began my research. After having great success for several months, Kim invited me out to visit his studio. It was really cool to meet him and to stand right at the table where my moisturizer was made! Kim gave me a bag full of more of his products to try. And then earlier this fall I ordered a few more products to try. This allowed me to not only try many of Kim’s products but also to see how my skin would react (or better yet, NOT react) over an extended period of time and from Spring to Summer through Fall and Winter. Here is what I found…

My three favorites are also the three I have been using the longest – about 8 months – the Deep Hydration Facial Moisturizer, the Organic Sunscreen and the Organic Eye Cream with German Blue Chamomile. These are all a part of the Mature collection which is proven to be most effective for those of us over 35 years old.

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My anti-aging trifecta!

The moisturizer was a success right away. It is not only light and penetrates quickly but I did not have any breakouts which is typically how my skin reacts when it isn’t happy. And having used it for the last 8 months, I have noticed the it is helping improve the elasticity of my skin. This nourishing moisturizer has become my own special anti-aging potion!

The eye cream is hands down the best I have EVER used. In the past, the creams I tried always dried the skin out under my eyes and made the fine lines look even worse. But not this time. Using this once in the morning and once at bedtime, has not only added more hydration to the sensitive skin around my eyes but also has been very therapeutic and has actually improved the fine lines under my eyes! My upper eyelids also look more smooth and youthful.

As important as it is to limit my exposure to the sun, I have been unable to use sunscreen for years. Whether it is the toxic chemical sunscreen or the heavy metal sunscreen, they both made my skin erupt in blemishes. It has been a real challenge to protect myself especially because I love convertibles and exercising outside. When I get ready now in the morning, I add a squirt or two of the organic sunscreen to my moisturizer and give it 5 or 10 minutes to soak in before applying my makeup. Not only does the sunscreen protect my face, neck and chest but the fatty acids in the red raspberry seed oil are also making my skin look younger!

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The facial cream cleanser and delicate facial cleanser.

When it comes to cleansing my skin, I typically have two issues – first, the cleansers often make my skin breakout and second, they tend to cause excessive dryness. For years, I gave up and just used water and a wash cloth to cleanse my face. But after reading Kim’s website and spending 3 fascinating hours with him, I decided it was time to give facial cleanser another try!

 

When I first began using the Delicate Facial Cleaner this spring, I did feel that it had a bit of a drying effect on my skin. Though my skin  felt cleansed and moisturized in the shower, I always needed to moisturize with my deep hydrating moisturizer afterward. I tend to use the cleanser every other day so as not to dry my skin too much. When I was a teenager and in my early 20s, I had excessively oily skin. But over the years it has become more and more dry. Now I am in the midst of menopause and my facial skin is the driest it has ever been. So, keeping that in mind, this issue could have more to do with my hormones than the product! This fall I decided to try Kim’s facial Cream Cleanser to see if it worked with my skin type a bit better. What I found was that it is an excellent cleanser for removing makeup and I have never seen the pores in my skin any cleaner! I alternate using the two cleansers and have found that they are not as drying as when I first began using them. If you have oily or combination skin (or your hormones aren’t doing crazy things to you!), you will probably love both cleansers!
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Organic Antioxidant Spray, Facial Mask and Foot Cream!

I alternate using the Organic Rosewater Toner and the Organic Antioxidant Spray.  The rosewater is pure organic rosewater and is perfect for spritzing on after I’ve washed my face to level out the PH balance. The Antioxidant Spray gives me all those wonderful antioxidants that my aging skin no longer produces on its own! I use it primarily in the morning and evening but sometimes I just give myself a spritz to protect and refresh my skin.

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Skin Butter, Body Lotion and Organic deodorant!

For my body, my three favorite products are the Organic Lotion, Skin Butter and Organic Deodorant. Because of all of the toxic fragrances that I find in most body lotions, I got to the point that I gave up on lotion and only used pure coconut oil as a moisturizer. It smells great and kept my skin moisturized but it was so greasy that I had to wait 10 or 15 minutes for it to soak in before I could get dressed. Not especially convenient on a busy day. Since I was having such good luck with the rest of Kim’s products, I ordered the lotion and skin butter.  The lotion is  very similar to the Deep Hydration Facial Cream so it should be no surprise that I love it too. It absorbs quickly and keeps my hands and legs creamy and moisturized.

And though my husband loves the Organic Foot Cream – it smells wonderful – an energizing combination of peppermint and spearmint and is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, I prefer to use the Skin Butter on my feet before bedtime. I exercise a lot and abuse my feet so this butter is exactly what my tired feet need to keep them moisturized and feeling good!
No breast cancer causing heavy metals in Kim’s deodorant either. Instead, it is a combination of rose water and essential oils and keeps me fresh and smelling good all day!
Just like me, you have probably really struggled to find a vegan lip balm. They typically contain beeswax or paraffin. Kim’s balm not only smells like tangerines but is vegan and is made of candilla wax which is made from the leaves of a small shrub, essential oils and extracts. It is like a lotion for my lips and keeps them supple and smooth.
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Sweet little handwritten notes that come with my orders!

And though I know that the improvement to my skin has been a combination of these wonderful products over the last 3 to 8 months, I have to finish with the Facial Serum. I use the serum every night after cleansing. It not only has helped me get back a bit of that glow we all took for granted when we were in our 20s but I feel like I am smearing collagen on my face every time I use it. I have watched my skin become smoother and those lines along my neck (those things will always give your age away no matter how good you look!) have almost disappeared. In the past I was never good at sticking with a skincare regiment for long but after seeing the results from Kim’s products, I am committed to Luminance Skincare! It has been a wonderful 8 months and I look forward to many years to come.

I hope this review is helpful in choosing the skincare products that work best for you. Kim and his team have a wonderful return policy. If you don’t like it, return it for a full refund. His mobile phone number is also on each page of his website. I found him to be genuine and passionate with nothing to hide. They also have two introductory gift boxes that range from $35 to $97 so you can give the products a try and shipping is free for orders over $75. I get a little handwritten note with my order and they have sent me a free gift every time I’ve ordered something. They offer the type of personal service that I have never received from a skincare company before! I am thrilled that I found Luminance Skincare. I hope you enjoy the products as much as I do and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!
December 9

Meadowcroft Wines – Each Wine Is a Story!

I had the opportunity recently to spend a fabulous afternoon with Tom Meadowcroft, the founder and winemaker for Meadowcroft Wines. It was one of the most enjoyable hours I have shared with someone in a long time! His passion for his craft was palpable and invigorating.

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Making notes in between sips of wine!

Tom and his family moved to Switzerland when he was just 4 years old. He grew up in Geneva playing, skiing and thanks to his Dad who ran a travel agency, traveling throughout Europe and the U.S. His journey in winemaking began in Bordeaux in the late 70s and led him to wineries in Washington state and Napa. Tom attended UC Davis and the Napa Valley College to hone his winemaking skills before managing a winery that focused on sustainable farming and environmental advocacy. The dozens of properties he managed in Napa and Sonoma taught him not only the principles of winemaking but helped define his vision for his own wines.

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A cozy corner for wine tasting and relaxing.

Meadowcroft Wines’ tasting room is located at CornerStone Sonoma – this gallery is a beautiful mix of walk-through gardens that change with the seasons, shops, a restaurant and seminars on landscape architecture and design. I had heard wonderful things about the nine-acre gardens and art from friends. It was inspired by the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire in France and its goal is to create a cultural and creative haven by celebrating the connection between art, architecture and nature. It was certainly a lovely surprise finding this quiet little haven tucked away in the most unexpected location.

tasting room exterior
Comfy, casual outdoor seating.

The Meadowcroft tasting room is open and welcoming and is reminiscent of a tin barn. There is plenty of outside seating so you can enjoy the atmosphere CornerStone has to offer. Inside is an eclectic mix of charm, rotating between the look of a French country kitchen, antique furniture and contemporary high top tables with bar stools. Being a lover of nature, I chose a quiet table outside. Hearing the birds sing and the breeze blowing, makes every experience just a little bit better!

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Chardonnay…what a lovely way to begin!

As I listened to Tom speak about each wine having a story “with many colors and weaves”, I began to really see his love for winemaking. My tasting started with a bright, aromatic Chardonnay that’s finish was smooth and fruity. Next was an exotic and spicy Pinot Noir that’s grapes had come from an abandoned vineyard. I took a couple of bottles of that home with me! The Syrah was an approachable blend of Syrah and Malbec and we followed up with a beefy Zinfandel. And when I didn’t think it could get any better…we finished with a pairing of Port and cabernet chocolate. What an amazing combination! The wines were a perfect combination of European-style winemaking with a splash of California so they really resonate on the palate! Through the tasting it was clear that Tom loves to play with different grapes and is right at home in the “big sandbox of creativity”!

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Me and my husband Steve hanging out with winemaker Tom Meadowcroft.

Since Tom does not fine the finished product, all of his wines are vegan-friendly. The Meadowcroft hallmark “honeybee” on the label is a symbol of the hard work, the journey of mastering the winemaking discipline and the process of transforming grapes into an outstanding wine. And Tom’s family name means “fertile field on the meadow”! It is clear that he has found his calling. Come to Meadowcroft Wines and taste Tom’s interpretation of the varietals narrative; it is a story that should not be missed!bottle of Pinot

 

Meadowcroft Wines is located in the CornerStone Sonoma gardens at 23574 Arnold Dr./Hwy. 121 in Sonoma. Elaine and Darby offer tastings every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy the wonderful wine, the gorgeous gardens and relaxing atmosphere and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!