Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Subway Floors

Since we moved to NYC and sold our car, the subway has become a major part of our life. Between stair rails, elevator buttons, seats, and subway poles, my kids are introduced to a lot more germs than ever before. Is that a bad thing? Geneticist and author Chris Mason thinks not, even suggesting a parent should "roll their child on the floor of the New York subway." His study on subway bacteria was published earlier this year, and it should be a comfort to germaphobes (despite the scary numbers!). The exposure to different bacteria influence the presence in our microbiome of specific beneficial microbes, boosting our immune system.

We are trying to be in a good hand-washing habit, and I use homemade hand sanitizer (aloe gel with witch hazel and lavender and tea tree essential oils) when out and about. I avoid commercial products with triclosan, and alcohol-based sanitizers, which disrupt the protective acid mantle on our skin. My goal is to be cautious and wise but not fear the microbes! 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Big Move...

This July, we packed up our little house in Virginia and moved to an apartment in New York City! It was a long-expected move for Joel to go to school, and we were excited to finally arrive here. It has been a huge adjustment, but we are loving it in the city. 
I'm excited to finally share a fitting change for my Miessence business - a new logo, website, facebook page, and store site, as Manhattan's Leaf. Feel free to like my facebook page and subscribe to the blog on the right if you haven't already!
We are very thankful for the work of a friend in bringing my sketch to life as a beautiful logo. I look forward to getting back into sharing with you here about natural living, the microbiome, Miessence, and life in Manhattan!


Monday, 29 June 2015

The Man Who Drank Cholera

Joel sent me this article about Ilya Metchnikoff, 'the man who drank cholera and launched the yogurt craze.' 
   Its the amusing history of an unusual and lively man who connected the dots from probiotics to immunity. 

Here's an excerpt: 
"The cholera drink didn’t sicken Metchnikoff, so he let a volunteer from his lab repeat the test. When the first volunteer didn’t contract cholera either, Metchnikoff didn’t hesitate to accept an offer from a second one. To his horror, the young man fell ill and nearly died. When Metchnikoff took his experiments into the petri dish to find out what caused such a marked difference, he discovered that some microbes hindered the cholera growth while others stimulated it. He then proposed that the bacteria of the human intestinal flora played a part in disease prevention. And, he reasoned, if swallowing a pathogenic bacterial culture sickened you, then swallowing a beneficial one would make you healthier. Therefore, he decided, the proper alteration of the intestinal flora could help battle diseases that had plagued humans for centuries."

Friday, 19 June 2015

Listen: The Brain and Microbiome

A few weeks ago I listened to a mind-blowing podcast about gut bacteria, brain function, ADHD and Autism. It was on Underground Wellness Radio, which is run by Sean Croxton, and this interview was with Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain - For Life. Sean is a superb interview host, letting his guest shine and asking pointed questions. I'm always impressed by his shows and free online summits. Dr. Perlmutter brings up amazing new discoveries relating gut health and probiotics to improvements in Autism, ADHD, Alzheimers, and even a person's timidity.
 If you know anyone with these concerns or are fascinated by the microbiome, I highly recommend a listen!
[And if you know anyone looking for a certified organic probiotic like InLiven Probiotic Superfood, please point them in this direction :)]

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Deodorant: What we use now.

Another switch we made when we began transitioning to a more natural lifestyle was throwing away our old antiperspirants and using homemade deodorant. This was actually Joel's idea, and he encouraged me in the weeks after Jacqueline was born to question the conventional antiperspirant I used, especially so close to our newborn's source of milk. Soon I found a recipe and made a batch of coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch, and essential oil deodorant. I now recommend arrowroot powder over cornstarch, and bentonite clay can be added as well. We upped the ratio of arrowroot powder to baking soda to find a mixture that wasn't irritating, and ended up with a formula that we've used for three years now.
    Why should we bother getting rid of something as basic as antiperspirant? Here is a great outline of those very important reasons (it's more than just the aluminum). Also, homemade deodorant, a recipe for especially sensitive skin, and speeding detox when you make the switch. Narelle Chenery, the founder and formulator of Miessence products, did a presentation on why she did not use antiperspirants in her deodorant. I learned a lot even though I've been familiar with the subject for years now.

 A few months ago we tried Miessence certified organic roll-on deodorant, and have been very pleased with it. There's no risk of oil-staining shirts, and it is effective and lasting for us. We tried Ancient Spice, but there are other varieties and an Aroma Free version as well. I still have a batch of homemade deodorant left, but find myself reaching for the Miessence roll-on much more eagerly.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

In my natural makeup bag...

As with many things, when my first baby was born, I started to re-evaluate my makeup and what I put on my face. I enjoy wearing makeup, but didn't want to be putting toxins on my skin, since what we put on our skin enters our bloodstream. There are many brands out there, but I'll show you what I've been using (which is pretty much drugstore priced, as well).

Everyday Minerals: I was skeptical about a powder foundation, but their free samples (when you pay a few dollars shipping) overcame those doubts. It's a great strategy of theirs! I love it and you can use a very light amount or layer it for more coverage. I like the semi-matte base, which gives the slightest glow. Unlike some mineral makeup companies, which are still filled with toxins, Everyday Minerals has very simple ingredients, and the minerals are non-nano. A plus is that if I use a full enough coverage, it doubles as face sunscreen! 

I also use their blush (Wild Vines), and have an eyeshadow (Jane Eyre) and powder concealer, although I don't use them much (I was not impressed with the powder concealer, but they have a new line of cream ones which I have not tried). I have a lipstick of theirs which I forgot to picture, but I don't believe it's made any more (they have a new line, however).

Zuzu Luxe Liquid Eyeliner by Gabriel Cosmetics: I would love to find an even more pure option (I have not tried making, though I know you can do that!), but I really missed my liquid eyeliner for doing a simple cat eye. This works perfectly.

Honeybee Gardens Truly Natural Mascara: I have only tried this and Reviva Labs as far as natural mascaras go. I prefer Honeybee Gardens and find it more build-able if I let it dry a few minutes. Neither measure up to a drugstore mascara's extraordinary volume, but the ingredients are worth it to me. There are many more natural mascara options and I will probably try a new one, but they go up in price from these two. (Many of these things can be found on Vitacost!)

Honeybee Gardens Eyeshadow: I love this eyeshadow! It's very shimmery and has a nice peachy color. I would like to get a shimmery brown version from them. Also very affordable. 

Etherealle Lipstick: This is a popular Etsy seller who makes mineral make up. Although I prefer Everyday Minerals foundation, her lipsticks are wonderful and there is a huge variety! I ordered three samples and took forever deciding between them. I haven't ordered yet, but I plan to get Darling, a nice everyday tone, and perhaps Serenade, which is a more berry shade for dressing up. I would love to try many more of hers!

I use homemade lipbalm from this book, and have two Everyday Minerals vegan brushes (I never use the eyeshadow one), and an old Sonia Kashuk brush which I love. My bag is a gift from my lovely aunt! 

Miessence has a line of organic makeup, and I fell head over heels for the liquid Translucent Foundation that I sampled. I've been content with powder, but I miss liquid foundation! I also hope to order their concealer soon, since that is what I miss most from the drugstore makeup days.
What is your favorite piece of makeup? 

Monday, 1 June 2015


In the last year or so we have enjoyed experimenting with water kefir, not to be confused with the yogurt-like milk kefir, usually called just kefir. And you may have seen kombucha at the grocery store, if you haven't tried or made it already. Kombucha is tea, fermented with sugar and a SCOBY 'mushroom,' whereas kefir is sugar water fermented with kefir grains, which consume most of the sugar in both cases. (Here is an explanation of the difference between water kefir and kombucha.) The fermentation process produces carbonation, and adds beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and B vitamins to the drink. It's nice to have a probiotic, fizzy, customizable alternative to just water, with minimal effort. Others find it a healthy switch from a soda habit. I have been able to find starter cultures (small, clear grains) on Etsy for a few dollars, and sugar and purified water is all that is needed to maintain it.

 Here is a quick tutorial of how to actually make water kefir (in a nutshell - grains + water + sugar + 24 to 48 hours on the counter, then flavor and ferment again!). I always use a tightly capped lid for both first and second fermentations, instead of a loose cloth as is sometimes recommended. This traps more carbonation and keeps the fermentation safer.

Our favorite flavors have been lemon (1/2 or whole juiced lemon), any berries (especially pureed strawberries), apple with clove and cinnamon sticks, elderberry (with berries leftover from making elderberry syrup), cream soda (vanilla), mock coca cola (vanilla, lime, and cinnamon, although I haven't gotten the ratio just right), and ginger. You can use any juice, cut up fruit, whole spices or dried fruit for flavoring, which I always do in a second ferment.

The fizziest kefir I've ever come up with was from juice concentrate, given to us by a friend. I suppose the extra fruit sugar in that really had an effect! It looks like real soda.

Although I like to fit cultured foods and fermented beverages like water kefir into our diet, I still consider a high quality probiotic supplement to be important. This gives a good foundation to other probiotics we encounter, such as in kefir, but doesn't leave such an vital part of our health and immunity to chance.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Sunshine Days (it matters what you use)

We were always careful about sunscreen growing up, and apart from a brief teenage period in which I decided a tan didn't suit me anyway, I've used sun protection any time I was outside for more than a few minutes. As with many other products, during my first pregnancy, my eyes were opened to the other side of this common product. A few explanations that helped me understand how ingredients in conventional sunscreen can increase our risk of cancer are here, here, and here. Here is a look at mineral (physical barrier) sunscreen and a review of 60 natural sunscreens, a marvelous resource that I used to choose my first mineral sun cream. Also, antioxidants internally may be just as important as externally. Finally, here is a simple, effective recipe if you would rather make your own. 

We all do our best with what we know, and so do those who love us. Let's keep learning and make changes when we can, without worrying about what we've used in the past. Enjoy the sun and be wise! 

Related Miessence products are their Reflect Outdoor Balm, and BerryRadical Antioxidant Superfood, both of which we are using this summer.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

InLiven Probiotic Superfood...an introduction.

Now that we've talked a little bit about what the microbiome is and why healthy bacteria are important to our health, what sets InLiven apart from other probiotic supplements?

Miessence InLiven Probiotic Superfood is a certified organic probiotic supplement formulated by Czerral Wheeler, a pioneer in the field of probiotics. (Czerral also coined the term 'superfood,' and was largely responsible for introducing spirulina to the world market!) InLiven is the result of over 20 years of research, fermentation and testing. It is a truly unique product. Here are some of my favorite reasons...

The bacteria in InLiven are essentially a superbreed. Over the course of his study, Czerral introduced common stressors to the bacteria and took the strongest surviving bacteria. These stressors include heat, cold, and pathogens like e.coli. This is the point that really sold me when I first heard Czerral speak on his probiotics, since who wouldn't want that kind of bacteria defending and supporting their immune system?

Because of this, the bacteria survive throughout your digestive system and continue to on-ferment in your gut; or stay alive and keep multiplying. This is not a given for many probiotic supplements.

InLiven is made of fermented superfoods. Just food - there are no fillers, capsules, or synthetics, and you are also given the added benefits of these nutrients along with the bacteria, with 18 amino acids and 81 essential enzymes.. The culturing process means they are predigested by the bacteria and therefore very easy for your body to assimilate (this also means that even though it contains wheat, it is tolerable for most people who are sensitive to gluten or grains, because the bacteria have broken it down for you. If in doubt, however, the liquid version is certified gluten free).

InLiven is a pure and certified organic probiotic. Each of the 26 superfoods is certified organic to the Australian standard, which is more stringent than the US. The bacterial strains themselves are naturally occurring and pure, not genetically modified or from a fecal source, as can be the case with many probiotic supplements.

Miessence InLiven Probiotic Superfood contains the complete Lactobacillus family of 13 strains. This is a well studied, foundational family that can help your body create a welcoming habitat for other friendly bacteria you encounter in your environment or cultured foods. Multiple strains provide the diversity we need.

FastTract Gluten Free Probiotic Liquid is another option, containing a concentrated amount of the 13 strains, only without the added benefit of the superfoods. There are advantages to both, depending on your needs. It can be simpler to take, but if being strictly gluten free is not a necessity for you, InLiven may be the best choice.

We have been using InLiven for two years now and I am first of all a happy customer myself, which is why I want to share it. If you are interested in trying out InLiven, I'd love to answer any questions, or you can take a look on my Miessence page here.

[for more updates or information on probiotics, subscribe to my newsletter on the right if you haven't already :)]

Monday, 18 May 2015

Our Microbiome.

We probably all grew up knowing that germs were bad and yogurt was good for us - even if we didn't know it was the live bacteria in yogurt that made it so healthy. What recent studies and discoveries in science are starting to show us more and more is the connection of the two, or how beneficial bacteria help you fight bad germs you encounter and keep you healthy. That's straightforward enough, but it turns out that the bacteria does so much more than even that! This bacteria (in supplement form, this is called a probiotic) builds your immune system (and your baby's!) and helps you fight off bad bugs, digest your food, sooth your digestive tract, and the effects range ever wider. These good guys are what culture yogurt, kefir, and kombucha, and a myriad of other homemade or widely popular probiotic drinks and foods.
       Beneficial bacteria is one very important part of overall gut health. That's a very un-fancy word, but one you hear a lot when talking about the well being and impact of our gastrointestinal tract. Food allergies and intolerances, antibiotics and diet choices can all cause something called leaky gut, which, put very simply, is when our gut wall is damaged and starts to allow larger molecules and proteins from the food we eat to cross into our blood stream. Having a healthy barrier goes hand in hand with healthy gut flora, and both are necessary for optimal health. I highly recommend Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which explains this further and gives her solution for healing a leaky gut with the 'GAPS diet.' (A great summary of gut health online is this one, by Chris Kresser.) We all need healthy bacteria, but it is important to remember that our whole lifestyle matters, and some may benefit from the GAPS diet, which focuses on healing the gut lining, or Autoimmune Paleo diet. I'm not a doctor, but I've heard incredible testimonies from both of these.

Another term for the trillions of bacteria living in our bodies is the microbiome. Here is a fantastic animated video to summarize its importance. It's only a few minutes but is a very helpful and fun explanation!

Since not many people read this yet, you may be familiar with the beginning of this blog when we got married, and then the (very) sparse posting in between. One of the things that happened along the way was the journey of our learning about natural health, mostly inspired in my first pregnancy. Maybe someday we can talk about that here! This has led to both Joel and I being really intrigued by the microbiome. Joel, because of the burgeoning research on the subject and the future of its science, and me because of its impact on health and healing with diet. There is much more to talk about, with new information coming out every day, but I hope this is helpful! 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Listen: Can Faith Be Green?

A few years ago, Joel and I listened to a talk by Dr. Timothy Keller (pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC), which changed the way I viewed environmentalism. I was skeptical when it came to a Christian perspective on environmental issues, conditioned by articles I read to scoff at the intensity of care given to certain species and so on. I am still learning to navigate the waters of stewardship and science, knowing it takes discernment to humbly play our role and know who to listen to. But for starters, here Tim Keller gives some very compelling reasons why Christians have more reason than anyone to care for the earth. It may surprise you and I highly recommend it!

You can listen here
If that doesn't work, you can listen here, or make a free account on the Redeemer website. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Miessence! And something new for us.

Hi friends!

I'm excited to share a new endeavor that I am beginning: a small home business for our family. With Joel's prompting, I decided to become a representative for a company I've admired for the past two years. Since April 2013, we've used probiotics by a company called Miessence. I had been hearing more and more about the importance of beneficial bacteria and how difficult it is to get all we need through our diet and fermented foods. So I was in the market for a good probiotic, you could say, when one of my favorite health bloggers talked about one that had impacted her own family's health and hosted a webinar with the man who formulated it. I listened to the webinar and was extremely impressed. I'll share more specifically about the probiotics later, but for now, here is why I respect Miessence so much and what made us interested in working with them.

 Although I've only mentioned the probiotics, Miessence began as the world's first certified organic skincare range. People told the founder, Narelle Chenery, that this was impossible, but she created a line that was certified organic to food grade standards, not only to cosmetic standards which are more twisted and flexible.
Their motto is Pure, Potent, Fresh.
Pure, because there are truly no unnatural ingredients, only the highest quality possible. It's not only plant-based, but each ingredient is certified to the highest organic, ecological and ethical standards possible. There is no green-washing going on here.
Potent, because the ingredients are 100% beneficial. I didn't quite get this part at first, but now I think it is quite revolutionary. Not only are there no fillers, but the products are designed so that each ingredient has a purpose and is good for you - whether a superfood or a moisturizer.
Fresh, because the products are made fresh monthly in small batches instead of manufactured and shelved for months or years at a time, and shipped directly to the end user. This is unheard of in the cosmetic industry unless you're talking about something homemade. No heat is used either, but the formulas are mixed using only cold-pressed ingredients and natural methods of extraction, preserving all live benefits of the raw materials.

I would also add 'Ethical.' Miessence's ingredients support fair trade and all of their practices keep sustainability in mind. They are committed to a 110% carbon offset, making them carbon negative (this includes all shipping as well). Packaging is all recyclable or biodegradable.
Some other things I admire are their extremely non-pushy sales approach, and their commitment to education and free information about natural living and business.

Here are the quick things I jotted down about my 'Why' working with Miessence, and goals:

- I respect the company's business and product ethic and quality.
- I hope to pay for my own supplements.
- I want to share information about natural living and good stewardship of creation.
- I want to be able to share healing supplements and toxin-free products with people I love.

I want to document my journey as a representative, becoming more familiar with the products, the way it's stretching me to try something new like this, articles/recipes/tutorials I've found helpful in our desire to remove toxins from our home, and of course updates on my babies, their funny quotes and light-speed growth. Yes, I hope posting here will be an avenue to grow my business, but it won't be any less my personal blog. In fact, it will be more so, because I hope to post a lot more and intersperse these different topics. I want to be up front about that, but I hope you'll be supportive and maybe learn something too!
  You can subscribe in the little box to the right, which will hopefully end up being a twice a month or so look at what's going on here on the blog. My personal Miessence link is here, or can be accessed by the button in the sidebar.

I don't expect all my friends and family to be interested. If I can help bring awareness of the safety of things we put on our bodies and other stewardship of our life, health and environment, I hope I can do that first and foremost.

With love,