5 All-Natural Ways to Avoid Winter Colds and Flu

avoid colds and flu all natural

First, this post is about being pro-active to avoid colds and the flu. Stay tuned to Meredith Tested for ways I combat sickness once it’s INSIDE THE HOUSE. Duhn duhn duhnnnn.

I used to be one of those people who got every single cold/flu that went around. Now I plow through winter with way less bouts of sickness. When you go to school or an office every day (or you’re around people/kids who do), chances are you’re always around someone carrying a cold or flu germ. Usually our bodies do a good job of keeping the germs we come into contact with at bay. But sometimes the stars align and you get a cold or worse, the flu.

I still occasionally get sick, but these are my tried-and-true top tips for avoiding winter colds. I should note that a good, whole food diet and regular exercise throughout the year are the absolute best ways to ensure good health during the winter months, but using these tips in addition will give you an extra boost!

1. Make a habit out of washing your handsLavender Mandarin Self Castile Foaming Soap
This is the simplest yet most effective way to fend off germs. Train yourself to wash your hands every time you see a sink/think about it. Not just when you have to use the restroom or are washing dishes, etc. Yup. Every time. Yes, you might end up washing your hands a bajillion times a day. Every time I walk by my bathroom or kitchen sink and see it, I wash my hands with warm soapy water. Just regular old soap – not antibacterial. Believe it or not, this may take practice for you just like the formation of any other habit. Dedicate yourself to it for a few days and you should be locked in.

If you use a simple (not antibacterial) soap, you shouldn’t experience too much dryness. But if you do, I find that a few drops of argan oil or a nice (fragrance free) cream works wonders. Fear of dry hands shouldn’t hold you back from taking care of yourself.

2. Cut out (or down on) sugar and alcohol
I know, I know, ughhhh. Around the holidays?! Are you nuts?! Tis the season for revelry and merriment!! But… alcohol and sugar do nothing to help your immune system. I’m not saying you have to go full Whole30 and shun all sugar for the winter. But, commit to making (difficult) good choices. Enjoy the occasional cocktail or slice of your aunt’s famous chocolate cake, but maybe skip that handful of jelly beans/chocolate/cookies hanging around the office/your sister’s kitchen if you’re just doing it out of habit. And please, do not under any circumstances listen to your friend who says that “OMG, tequila totalllly kills cold germs!” (Ahem, you know who you are.) You might feel better in the short term after a few happy hour margaritas (or hot toddy’s, or beers), but you’ll feel that cold attack your system tenfold over the next few days.

3. Disinfect surfaces without bleach
Bleach is not necessary, y’all. Put down the bleach wipes and pick up some DIY options and a microfiber cloth (or paper towels). Using safer alternatives like rubbing alcohol (watch this awesome video for tips & words of caution), distilled white vinegar, and simple old dish soap will clean your house and is safe for you, your pets, your kids, and other living things. One part water and one part rubbing alcohol mixed in a small spray bottle (clean and reuse bottles from beauty/haircare or other house cleaners, or buy new at the dollar store) is my go-to for light switches, computer keyboards, remotes, phones, etc. A few spritzes on a microfiber cloth, wipe down the surface and voila! Disinfected.

4. Stay focused on your heath on the go
It might seem easy to keep up good habits at home but when you’re running around doing errands, visiting friends and going to holiday parties, avoiding colds might be the last thing on your mind. And honestly, you should be more focused on your friends and loved ones and fun activities this time of year than cold-fighting techniques. Just a few steps and you’ll be ready. Bring water with you everywhere (a water bottle with a built-in filter means you can fill up pretty much anywhere), pack healthy snacks so you don’t get famished and cave into a sugary treat (see #2), and keep an all-natural hand sanitizer in your purse/car/desk. No need to douse yourself in Purell. Gross. Make your own all-natural sanitizer if you’re crafty, or pick up a natural brand (double check the ingredients, as usual!) at your local Whole Foods or natural foods store. I’ve even found the non-toxic brand Cleanwell at major drugstore chains! It’s spray nozzle makes it easy to apply and it’s small enough to keep in a pants pocket or purse. One complaint: I found the “orange vanilla” scent to be very oregano-y with faint whiffs of orange/vanilla, just a warning.

5. Rest when you need it
Put on your big girl pants and rest when you need it. Ever have that run-down feeling where you’re not sick but you feel like doing anything but sitting on the couch would be impossible? You’re probably majorly fighting something off. Help your body – listen to it. Grab a mug of tea (decaf/herbal if possible), go to sleep early (no TV/iPhone, thankyouverymuch) and try to relax. If you’re stressed about work/family/etc., skip the nightcap or glass of wine and try some deep breathing to soft music instead. You might miss the new episode of The Good Wife, but your health will thank you. If necessary, take a sick day even if you’re not “fully” sick. Get some RNR before you dive headfirst into a terrible cold, and you’ll head back to work/school with renewed energy.

If you do get a full-blown cold, do yourself and everyone around you a favor – stay home. Technology makes it easier than ever to stay on track with projects and assignments. Get in touch with your coworkers, professors, etc. early so you don’t fall behind. Everyone will thank you for not bringing your germs to visit.

Another step is to get the flu vaccine. I know some people might find this controversial but I skipped it one year (“I’m too busy”/”where do you even get the shot?”/”but I’m not a kid or old person…”/excuses/excuses) and bam!  the flu knocked me out for almost a week. Ugh. You probably walk/drive past several places that administer the shot (low-cost or free, depending on your insurance) so take a few minutes one day to stop in and get ‘er done.

xo, Meredith

There are tons of all-natural ideas out there for fending off the cold and flu from shots of apple cider vinegar to steam showers with essential oils. What’s your most effective way to avoid winter colds?

Drugstore Finds: Non-toxic Beauty and Skincare

natural drugstore productsDrugstore finds that are actually non-toxic? Yes, they exist! While I purchase many of my favorite green, clean products at natural food stores and online (Try these online stores: [1] [2] [3]), you can still sometimes find good options at your local “mainstream” drugstore and/or supermarket (Target and Walmart seem to be expanding their natural options daily).

Here are reviews of a few products from widely-distributed brands (found at Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens and even Hannaford’s, my local supermarket):

Complexion Balancing HibiscusAlba Botanica Facial Toner Complexion Balancing Hibiscus (EWG: 2)
I like the scent of this toner. A little also goes a long way so this should last a long time. Just a quick squeeze on a cotton pad and it definitely deep cleans. I don’t use a toner every day but definitely more often in the summer months and when I’m working out more. Check out all the ingredients on the package or EWG Skin Deep, though, since some people might be more sensitive to some of the not-so-natural ingredients than others.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer, Fig (EWG: 1)
These lip shimmers look great on and are sheer enough for everyday use. They’re not as moisturizing as a straight-up lip balm but they’re pretty good. I’ve found that the consistency varies wildly from color to color, though. Some are “gritter” than others (due to the glitter/shimmer in certain colors?) and some colors are way more sheer than others regardless of what the color looks like on the cap. Currently I’m liking the color ‘Fig.’ Also, be “warned” that certain colors have higher Skin Deep ratings due to differences in ingredients (ex: another one of my favorite colors Caramel EWG: 2).

Miss Treated ShampooKiss My Face Miss Treated Shampoo (EWG: 2)
This shampoo is a good, basic option for people with any hair type, despite the name. Might be good for people who color their hair. I like the fact that this formula cleans my hair well but doesn’t feel like it’s stripping it of natural oils. Some “repairing” products also just seem like they’re depositing build-up but this product doesn’t do that. However, it doesn’t feel like it’s repairing as much as I hoped, though, so it could be used by people with any hair type. Please note that the conditioner that pairs with this shampoo has a higher EWG rating of 4.

Physicians Formula Organic Wear Face Sculpting Trio, Sunkissed Organics (EWG:1)
This is a great year-round product, not just for summer months when you can “get away with” a more bronzed look. It just adds a bit of “life” to your face after evening out with foundation and/or concealer. It comes in a few different tones. I am fair skinned and I think all would work for me. One issue is that I’m not a huge fan of the packaging. It gets kind of gross/worn-out-looking quickly since the paper packaging gets dirty from the product quickly. The brush that comes with it is cute and better than some but it doesn’t spread the product evenly on skin. I kept it for on-the-go applications but I end up blending with my fingertips afterwards.

Also, I can sometimes find good-quality essential oils at my local Rite Aid and other drug stores. Score!

If you’re in a pinch, these big brands offer a FEW items that have low/safe ratings on Skin Deep, but are certainly not the most eco-friendly options for makeup out there. However, better than choosing something with potentially harmful ingredients.

Maybelline New York Define-A-Line Eyeliner, Brownish Black (EWG: 1)
Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick, Miracle Mauve 030 (EWG: 2)
CoverGirl Lip Perfection Jumbo Gloss Balm, Blush Twist (EWG: 2)
Wet ‘n Wild Fergie Eye Shadow Palette, Desert Festival (EWG: 1)

TIP >>> Just because one item you love from a brand is super green and clean, doesn’t mean everything they offer has great ingredients. Check EWG Skin Deep and look at the ingredient lists closely before making any purchase. I’ve had a few heartbreaking moments thinking I could “get away with” not reading the packaging because I’d used the brand before. This leads to … “Huh, why does this smell like chemicals and why is my skin all of a sudden breaking out? (Finally checks ingredients) Oh…” [insert sad face]

What all natural brands/products do you buy at “mainstream” stores?

Best DIY Stain Remover Ever

Whatever your age or situation, stains happen. Whether your common stains are more of the chili and beer variety or butternut squash baby food, you can use this simple formula to save your clothes! Just put this mixture on the stain, let it sit for 30 minutes (or overnight) and then run in the wash like normal. Way safer and in my opinion, way more effective than bleach, a Tide pen or any number of “miracle” stain-removing formulas you can buy at the store.

DIY all-natural stain remover

I’ve been using this for about a year and it’s taken out a number of mysterious stains (and not-so-mysterious … hello huge glass of red wine that spilled all over my shirt!) on lots of different kinds of fabric. If your item is particularly delicate, you may want to test out a small area that’s not very visible just in case.

I don’t know how effective this would be on carpets or furniture as I’ve found running through the wash has been a necessary step. But you could try pouring a small amount on the stain and blotting with a microfiber cloth.

I mix this in a small jar as needed but you can use a bowl, larger jar, etc. I recommend making it as needed versus storing it pre-made, though, since the hydrogen peroxide will turn into water eventually and won’t be effective. I’ve read lots of variations with different ratios but honestly as long as you put in some of each, it’ll work pretty well.

Warm water + basic dish soap + baking soda + hydrogen peroxide

And you’re done! You can just pour it on the stain and be done with it, but I like to rub it in a bit with a soft brush (an old toothbrush would work well) or a washcloth/microfiber cloth.

One way we can live more minimally with only stuff we love and use regularly is to take care of those few items we have! No need to toss something just because it’s been stained! We’ve been amazed at how well this has taken out stains (from who-knows-what) on baby clothes we’ve received as hand me downs. I know that some of the stains had most likely been on those clothes for years, too.

August Goodebox Review

As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy subscription boxes (made popular by companies like Birchbox) and am happy to see more companies popping up with exclusively eco-friendly, non-toxic, and high quality items. I’m currently getting a Goodebox every other month. Here’s what I got in August 2014 along with my experiences with the products. Yes this review is a little late but I didn’t get a chance to try everything out as quickly as I have in the past. Let me know questions in the comments!

Juice Beauty Reflecting Lip Gloss (Color: Guava)
I love this – goes on smoothly, lasts a while. Does what a lip gloss should do. I like it on it’s own most since the color is pretty intense (well, for a gloss anyway) so it definitely changes the color of any lipstick/pigment underneath. I probably wouldn’t have chosen “Guava” on my own but I’m so glad this is the color that came in my Goodebox. It’s way flattering on my fair skin and I reach for it almost every day. Highly recommend!

Province Apothecary Regenerating + Stimulating Exfoliator
The small pot of dry exfoliator lasted me 3ish applications. I found this exfoliator to work best in the shower so it’s less messy. I gently shake a teaspoon-sized dollop onto my hand and then add liquid before applying to my face. Then I get in the shower and continue to gently buff into my skin and rinse off after 1-2 minutes. I tried this with water and Argan oil as the liquid, but I prefer using water. Not sure I would purchase the full-size of this. It was lovely but I don’t exfoliate very often so it wouldn’t be a big part of my skincare routine. If you’re an exfoliating extraordinaire, though, I’d check it out since it is a functional product.

MUN No. 1 Aknari Brightening Youth SerumMUN No.1 Aknari Brightening Youth Serum | Spirit Beauty Lounge
Ohhh my gawd. I used this for almost a week (at night) and couldn’t believe how amazing my skin looked and felt in that short time. I looked luminous and my skin was more even in tone. This is amazing but since I have other nighttime lotions and oils to use up, I’m going to hold off on pulling the purchase trigger until I can better justify it. I have no idea if they use actual witchcraft or what to get this stuff to work so well, and I don’t really care. ;)

Kahina Giving Beauty Night Cream
So many people rave about this cream, I was prepared to be wowed. Perhaps it was my sky-high expectations, but I just wasn’t a huge fan. I didn’t love theheavy herbal scent and even after using both of the generous sized sample packs over a few nights, I just wasn’t impressed. I think my skin just didn’t mesh well with the formula. Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all!

BeautyCounter Lip Sheer (Color: Plum)
The elegant packaging captured my heart before I even took off the cap. The color Plum is very luxurious and deep (reminds me of that Clinique lipstick everyone has). It’s not an everyday color for sure, but the texture of the Lip Sheer is amazing. One coat is glorious and smooth and beautiful. Two coats is deeper but still gloriously smooth. While I most likely won’t wear this color often, I’m really glad I have it in my makeup kit now. And since I’m so in love with the texture and buildable color, I’m already planning which other color(s) to purchase. Also, I loved the little card the BC sent – a small card with all of the gross chemical ingredients they avoid in their products. Very handy – I put it in my wallet for future reference.

——-

In case you missed it, here’s my review of the June Goodebox I received.

Anniversary Celebration + Signature Cocktail Recipes

This week I celebrated one year married (and nearly 10 years together, wow) to my husband!

tyack_4web-292

In some ways our wedding feels so far away, especially considering the new baby on the way, but I can also remember the planning and celebrating like it was yesterday. I can practically feel the butterflies and excitement I had as I was getting ready, and the huge outpouring of love and happiness showered on us from all angles from family and friends. And I can vividly remember the incredible food and drinks (p.s. Our amazing caterer and bar catering in Burlington, VT.) While I am a firm believer that weddings are a time to par-tay, I took some great advice from family and avoided alcohol so I could soak up all of the amazing-ness and the night wouldn’t go by too fast!

However, I had to make a small exception and try the signature drinks my husband and I created for the occasion. Sure, one was labeled “bride” and the other “groom” but they were both delish. Mmm!

We didn’t have to do too much research since we knew exactly what we wanted, but there are lots of great resources and inspiration out there for signature drinks (and all aspects of wedding planning.) Check out some of our favorites: Lover.ly, Pinterest, Style Me Pretty, and Bar Geek. Better yet, get thee to the kitchen with some of your favorite ingredients/flavors and start testing! It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.

TIP >>> We found that keeping ingredient ratios equal was easiest for our bar caterer and for us to ensure the drinks would be as fabulous at the wedding as they were in our living room.

Reasons I love signature cocktails:tyack_4web-342
– The containers and sign can act as awesome decor. Our bar caterer provided large glass canisters/dispensers with spouts at the bottom and I hand-drew the sign
– The flavors can showcase the bride and groom’s personalities
– You can give your guests something fun to drink besides beer and wine without having to commit to a full bar

Want to recreate our signature cocktails? Recipes below! At the reception we served ours punch style in large glass dispensers but you can also use this recipe for a single cocktail (or two.) Feel free to mess with the ratios to suit your taste (but, see TIP above)!

Bride’s Signature Cocktail: Cucumber Gin Collins

Optional: Muddle 1 cucumber slice at bottom of glass before adding liquids
1 part organic or homemade lemonade
1 part club soda
1 part gin (Hendrick’s Gin and/or a local Vermont brand like Barr Hill from Caledonia Spirits is my recommendation)
Add a 2-4 thinly-sliced organic cucumbers to each glass

Groom’s Signature Cocktail: Maple-Apple-Ginger Bourbon Fizz

1 part bourbon
1 part Vermont apple cider
1 part ginger ale (Skip sugary sodas and opt for true ginger flavor like Reed’s)
‘Garnish’ with roughly 1 tbsp of maple syrup per glass

Cheers!

“Inter-nesting” (aka my top websites for preparing for baby)

internesting image 1

I’m officially coining the phrase “inter-nesting” (Internet + nesting? Gosh I love it) … It’s how the nesting/preparing-for-baby instinct can manifest in the 21st century. Sure, you might fold blankets and get the crib ready, too, but hours spent online reading about baby gear and advice from other parents is awesome. And less messy than painting.

Here are the sites I visited over and over again. There are thousands of websites out there dedicated to sharing advice for new parents, product recommendations and just general lifestyle blogs designed to give readers a peek into the fabulous life of a stylish family. The sites listed below are mostly oriented towards living a green/non-toxic/environmentally friendly lifestyle.

But first, here’s the website I actually visited most: Pinterest. Duh ;) I love the recent updates to category exploration. Basically, if you go to the topic “Kids” it used to just be a huge mish-mosh of anything and everything related to kids and babies. Now you can further refine your exploration by clicking on related interests like “Pregnancy” “Baby Gifts” etc. I like searching for particular topics like “cloth diapers” and “hospital bag packing list.” I also love that I can easily save stuff when I’m browsing the internet using the “pin it” button. Download the one for your browser here: https://about.pinterest.com/en/goodies.

Tip >>> Use secret boards so your followers don’t get bogged down with all of your baby-related pinning. I separated my secret baby-related boards into categories so I could easily find stuff later. These may be different for you but I used: 1. Cloth diapering 2. For Mama (maternity advice/clothing, nursing bras, exercises, etc.) 3. Nursury/Registry (all that baby stuff/outfits/decor) 4. Hospital Bag/Birth 5. Parenting (basically everything after the baby is born from common natural remedies to baby food recipes).

Screen shot 2014-08-01 at 10.49.29 AM

Most-read and bookmarked sites:

http://www.theminimalistmom.com/
http://www.lucieslist.com/
http://www.pregnantchicken.com/
http://alphamom.com/pregnancy-calendar-overview/
http://www.babygearlab.com/
http://allaboutclothdiapers.com/
http://gimmethegoodstuff.org/blog/
http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/search/label/motherhood
http://www.thewisebaby.com/category/real-moms/
http://wellnessmama.com/

Specific posts that I’ve loved:

http://www.whistlepighollow.com/2014/06/06/birth-like-mama-cow/

http://www.mintarrow.com/2013/11/the-best-baby-registry-list-ever.html

http://themindfulhome.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-complete-guide-to-non-toxic-eco.html

Tip >>> Any time you see a “must have for baby” list, check out the comments section. I’ve found that other moms will share their must-haves in the comments, or bring you back down to earth and remind you that you don’t need everything every lifestyle blogger says you need. One caveat: Obviously comments sections can get negative, so if I find that the tone of the comments isn’t constructive overall, I get outta there.

[Side note: I've chosen the hypnobirthing method of birth so I've stayed away from reading birth stories outside of my hypnobirthing books, but it might be helpful for some people to get an idea of how other mothers experienced labor and birth. Just keep in mind that while we certainly all have the same physical parts, birth and labor is different for every woman and baby. And if you get a little anxious reading someone's story because of things that went "wrong," close that window and get out of there asap. You may not be able to avoid your aunt at lunch telling you her personal birth horror stories but you can definitely avoid a story on the internet. Also, in case you do get stuck in a corner listening to women one-up each other with birth stories that went awry (pregnant women can be a magnet for baby "gossip"), take a deep breath and try to focus on not letting these stories penetrate your mind. It sounds goofy but I like to think about little Glinda the Good Witch-style pink bubbles taking negative thoughts and stories away from my brain and my baby. It's worked really well for me so far!]

Moms/parents and parents-to-be, what are your favorite websites?


**Important note: You may notice that the “big guys” like TheBump.com, BabyCenter.com and WhatToExpect.com are not on this list. I never found their content to be as helpful or compelling than other sites (or talking to my midwife/doc.) In fact, I found their content to be lame, super-duper negative, and sensationalized. Pregnancy and birth info shouldn’t be like reading headlines out of the National Enquirer, IMHO. However, I might check these sites (in addition to others) if I have a very specific question about a product or the safety of a certain food/activity. I signed up for several of the big site’s weekly emails early on but ended up unsubscribing after discovering the much awesomer (yes I know that’s not a real word) weekly advice from Alpha Mom, Pregnant Chicken, and Lucie’s List. Stay away from unnecessarily negative content as much as you can! What you read may stick with you and there’s absolutely no need to be scared or stressed out.

10 Delicate, Everyday Necklaces

everyday necklacesWe can all love a good statement piece every now and then but a dainty, everyday necklace is more practical (ugh that word gets me down but it is descriptive) and will get lots more use.

I’d be happy to wear any one of these pieces and so might your significant other/friend/mom/niece/hard-to-buy-for sister/etc. While it’s true that many women have a preference for color/metal, try choosing something in a “middle” tone like bronze or rose gold if you’re unsure what your giftee (Giftee! Is that a word?) likes.

All of these fabulous pieces are made in the USA or fair trade/ethically manufactured. Oh, you know how we do. ;)

  1. Michelle-Chang-XO-Pendant-in-Sterling-SilverMichelle Chang “XO” Necklace, $70.
    A simple and sweet message. Great for mother’s day or any day you want to show a special woman in your life that you care. The chain’s a little longer so it would be a great layering piece. Also available in gold.  Made in America.
  2. Gray Raw Diamond necklace with gold filled chain - NG09Joy Draveki Gray Raw Diamond Necklace, $75.
    This piece is just so incredibly elegant, yet subtle enough to go with any outfit – from a black-tie va-va-voom dress to jeans and a t-shirt. Raw diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Made in California.
  3. Greenola Brass Scallop Collar Necklace, $50.
    A little more of a statement but still delicate enough for everyday wear. Fair trade/ethically manufactured.
  4. Image of Journey NecklaceBeautiful & Beloved “Journey” Necklace, $30.
    Geometric yet elegant. In brass or silver. Fair trade.
  5. Dogeared Love Knot Necklace, $54.
    One of their best sellers for good reason. Made in USA.
  6. Lauren Turquoise Feather Matte Gold Necklace | Sophia & Chloe Jewelry Made in the USASophia and Chloe Turquoise Feather Necklace, $124.
    For the gal who likes her everyday pieces to be a little more funky. The off-center turquoise piece adds even more visual interest. Made in USA.
  7. birds necklaceJewelry by Harlow Birds Pendant, $33.
    Put a bird on it! Cute for a mom of two or for your love bird. Made in USA.
  8. Vintage Honeycomb necklace - hexagon necklace, modern geometric necklace, simple everyday necklaceHoneycomb Hexagon Necklace, $30.
    This little brass piece is architectural and cool but dainty enough to wear with almost anything. Made in California.
  9. Silver And Gold Bronze Coral Necklace- Coral Jewelry- Coral Twig Necklace- Trendy Necklace- Simple Silver Necklace- Bronze Fashion JewelrySilver and Gold Bronze Coral (Twig) Necklace, $37.
    Mixed metals and a chic, organic shape would make this a great piece for any nature lover. Made in Virginia.
  10. Sel Blue SeaShell Necklace in Fine Silver Beach Jewelry Precious Metal Clay .999 Recycled Silver  PMC,Seashell Necklace, $72.
    Made from eco-friendly recycled silver. For the gal who lives by the beach (or wishes she did).