Summer cocktails

It’s that time of year….the sun is out, people are barbecuing & we finally get to wear our cute summer dresses, ladies!

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This can only mean one thing: It is crucial to have a few summer cocktail recipes up your sleeve for the next event you attend!

Side note: These are NOT “clean” or “whole 30″, but sometimes, you just have to indulge a little :)

 

THE WATERMELON TEQUILA COCKTAIL:

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1/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
8 cups diced seedless watermelon (1 pound)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 3/4 cups blueberries
3/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, plus 8 sprigs for garnish
1 1/4 cups silver tequila
Ice

DIRECTIONS:

1) In a small saucepan, bring the water to a simmer with the sugar and stir over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute; let the sugar syrup cool.
2) In a blender, puree the watermelon until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the watermelon juice, pressing gently on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the pulp.
In a large pitcher, combine the sugar syrup with the lime juice, blueberries and mint leaves. Using a wooden spoon, lightly muddle the 3) blueberries and mint. Add the watermelon juice and tequila. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
4) Pour the cocktail into tall ice-filled glasses. Garnish with the mint sprigs and serve.

 

THE BLUEBERRY CUCUMBER GIMLET:

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1/4 cup blueberries, more for garnish
8-10 slices cucumber, more for garnish
1 fl. oz. (15ml) fresh lime juice
1 fl. oz. (15ml) simple syrup (recipe follows)
2 fl. oz. (30ml) gin

DIRECTIONS:
1. Add blueberries and cucumber into a shaker and smash several times with the muddler until juices are released; add lime juice, syrup, and gin, and top with ice cubes. Cap the shaker and shake vigorously until well combined, about 20-30 seconds.
2. Pour mixture into glass, half-filled with ice. Garnish with cucumber slices and blueberries. Serve chilled.

 

WHITE PEACH, LAVENDER SODA:

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1 cup water, plus more to fill the bottle
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers (1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers)
1 pound very ripe white peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon champagne yeast or baker’s yeast

Need: one clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle with screw-on cap

DIRECTIONS:

1) Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave. Remove from heat and add the sugar and lavender flowers. Stir to dissolve to sugar. Let stand for 20 minutes to infuse the sugar water with lavender.

2) Wash and roughly chop the peaches. It is not necessary to peel them. Strain the lavender flowers and pour the infused sugar water over the fruit. Add the lemon juice and salt, and stir to combine. Let this stand for 10 minutes to macerate the fruit.

3) Working in batches, puree the peaches with the sugar-water in the food processor or blender. Strain the puree into a bowl, collecting as much juice as possible without forcing any solids through the strainer. You can also strain the juice through a flour sack towel or cheesecloth to yield a cleaner soda. You should end up with 1 1/2 to 2 cups concentrated fruit syrup.

4) At this point, you could stop, refrigerate the syrup, and add it to a glass of sparkling water to taste. To naturally carbonate the soda with yeast (you intrepid brewer you!), proceed onward.

5) Pour the juice into a clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle using a funnel (see note). Top off the bottle with water, leaving about an inch and a half of head room. Give it a taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if desired. The extra sugar will dissolve on its own.

6) Add the yeast. Screw on the cap and shake the bottle to dissolve and distribute the yeast. Let the bottle sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 12 to 48 hours. Exact fermentation time will depend on the temperature in the room. Check the bottle periodically; when it feels rock-solid with very little give, it’s ready.

7 )Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 weeks. Open very slowly over a sink to release the pressure gradually and avoid bubble-ups.

*photo credit: E. Christensen

 

Now, close your laptop and go make yourself a DELICIOUS summer cocktail, sit on your porch & watch the sun go down!

*CHEERS*

 

*photo credit of personal picture: Inkspot Photography

A recap of the whole 30 & my hubby’s favorite chicken salad

I know this blog is coming to you all a little late, but here it is: a recap of our Whole30 experience! And, to make things even sweeter, I’m adding in a little recipe for you that you’ll love!

 

As you probably remember, week 1 of the Whole30 was pure hell not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. But, here’s what they tell you when you start, “This is not hard. Quitting smoking is hard; fighting cancer is hard. You can give up refined sugar and carbs for 30 days, no problem.” So , I kept these wise words with me wherever I went and they REALLY changed my mental state on this cleanse. After the cravings and withdrawal subsided (i literally had flu-like symptoms one night from the sugar detox), for the most part, things became SO routine that I couldn’t remember a time before the Whole30!

 

I got so used to making my two eggs, avocado and tomato in the morning & began to eagerly anticipate my salads at lunch. Dinner was the best though. I would go all out. Jalapeño, grass-fed burgers with a fried egg, Coconut, lime Cauliflower “rice” and Proscuitto, pesto chicken were amongst my favorites.

I wont lie to you though, there were MANY hard moments on this cleanse. Thankfully my husband let me convince him to try the Whole30, so there was no temptation at home since we were both on the same page (embarrassing flashback to one week earlier when I made him eat his chocolate in the kitchen and NOT anywhere near me, so I wouldn’t be tempted to take a bite….or 10). Hell, maybe he did the Whole30 so I wouldn’t boss him around anymore. Whatever his reasoning, it helped me out!

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I promised you all that I’d tell you about his favorite recipe from this cleanse: Paleo Avocado Chicken Salad.

 

Enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids and TONS of flavor, this chicken salad will leave you satisfied and smiling.

It’s SUPER simple and takes all of 5 minutes to combine all of the ingredients. QUICK TIP: I kept several pre-cooked chicken breasts in the fridge during the 30 days, to make life easier.

Paleo Avocado Chicken Salad:

Ingredients
  • 2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled, depitted and mashed with a fork
  • ½ cup of green apple, finely chopped in ½ to ¼ inch cubes
  • ¼ cup of red seedless grapes, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons of raw walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins (or cran raisins)
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Let’s talk first how you can cook your chicken. I usually throw in 3-4 breasts in the crock pot and cook on low for 7 hours with a mere ½ cup of broth, water, healthy marinade or sometimes even nothing. I know many people feel uneasy about not putting a lot of liquid in a crock pot with fear of burning or drying out the protein but I am here to tell you, you do not need a lot of liquid. Proteins cooked in slow cookers usually release enough liquid in the cooking process. If you do not have enough time to slow cook your chicken, you can always bake your chicken in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees sprayed with a little olive oil or if you are really pressed for time, I just run out and get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and shred it.
  2. Once you have your chicken situation square, de-pit your ripe avocado and mash your avocado to somewhat of a chunky/ creamy consistency.
  3. Chop up your apples, grapes, cilantro, and walnuts.
  4. In a big bowl add your shredded chicken, creamy avocado and all your fix ins you chopped in step 3 in addition to the raisins. Once you mix everything, add the juice of your lime and some salt and blend altogether.
  5. You are done, viola, eat it up. I usually eat it plain or scoop it over a bed of lettuce. Either way you cannot go wrong.

(Recipe from Ourfullplate.com)

I would encourage anyone to try this cleanse. It will awaken your taste buds, challenge you in new ways, and give open up a whole new world of energy and creativity that you never thought existed.

You can also check out my ever growing Pinterest board “Real Food” for more Whole30/Paleo recipes:http://www.pinterest.com/mrscela/.

GOOD LUCK and HAPPY EATING!

 

 

 

 

 

My new skincare score!

I have finally found it. Okay, my gorgeous sister-in-law found it FOR me, but nevertheless, my search for the perfect foundation has finally ended come to a screeching halt!

 

IT COSMETICS has come out with an incredible foundation, but here’s the best part (the Esthetician in me is soooo happy): it has 50 SPF! Need I say more??? It’s called “CC Cream with SPF“, and it’s a full coverage + color-correcting + an anti-aging serum + physical SPF sunscreen all in one! I can almost hear angels singing.  

 

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My favorite 3 things about it are

1) The high SPF coverage,

2) The consistency/anti-aging serum

3) The lightweight feel.

All of these factors have won me over. FAST. 

I found mine at Ulta, for $38. You really don’t need to use a lot when applying to your skin. This product will last a long time, so I am comfortable paying the price for it. And really, when I think about it, I’ve paid much more for foundations that I did not care for very much….so this is a total score for me! If you are like me, and you live in an area that dosen’t have and Ulta store, you can order it online here.  

Questions? Comments? Let me know! Hope ya’ll like it!

Happy weekend!

 

Spring Skin Care Challenge

Spring is finally here! I am so excited….the beautiful, green hills, the gorgeous weather & all of the flowers in bloom have me giddy these days. As the seasons change, I find myself staring into the mirror wondering why I have neglected my skin so much in the past few months. Maybe it’s because I was too cold to care or maybe it was just laziness, but either way, I am back to giving my skin some love and it’s made a HUGE difference. I know, I’m a huge nerd.

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This year, I am going to commit to taking better care of my skin & as we head into the summer months I have come up with a little challenge for all of you readers (and myself, of course). The challenge is this: Once a month, book a facial or pick up a new skin care product, for the next 6 months. This will leave your skin youthful & hydrated as Winter approaches again, but it will do something even more important for you: It will get you in the habit of taking care of your skin and I know you’ll just love the results! I know the first thing that comes to mind is the cost of this little challenge, but I want to encourage you to get creative with it & just go for it!

Tips for booking a cheaper facial/peel: Find a spa that’s offering a facial special…simply book a shorter facial & tell your Esthetician that you want to add-on a peel….Call a spa and ask if they offer just a peel, a la carte…ask if your spa offers a discount when you book a series of facials/peels…inquire about seasonal facial specials.

As an Esthetician, who has worked in a high-end spa for years, I know firsthand how expensive skin care, facials and spas can be. Just remember that we only get one skin in our lives. We only get one chance to take care of it. If we neglect it, it will surely show! People shell out the big bucks for their hair and hair products so easily, forgetting that our skin needs to feel the love too!

This month I chose to purchase a new product and I’m so excited to review it for you all!

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I recently purchased the Mary Kay version of the Clarisonic (It’s called the Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush). Guys, I am in love with it! It leaves my skin exfoliated, glowing and super fresh looking. Not to mention, it’s SO easy to use. I leave it in my shower, add a little face wash to it & go to town, 3 days a week.

WHY I’M IN LOVE WITH IT:

  • $100 cheaper than Clarisonic
  • Has 2 speeds like the Clarisonic
  • Starter kit comes with two brushes, Clarisonic only gives you one and replacement brushes for Clarisonic retail at $25/ea whereas Skinvigorate replacements come two in a pack for only $15/box
  • Can use any cleanser of your choice with device
  • Noted to decrease oil production and acne
  • Device is light weight and easy to hold (and water proof)
  • Brush heads last three months before replacement is needed

There you have it folks! Mission complete this month….now, it’s your turn!

 

*photo credit: Elise Whittenburg; Inkspot Photography

 

Week 1 of the Whole 30

WEEK ONE OF THE WHOLE 30….CHECK!

We made it through the 1st week! It was not without cravings, fatigue and many pity parties, but after the 3rd day I started to feel much better. This week I have learned that adopting an entirely new lifestyle takes time and LOTS of planning, but now I am in the rhythm, guys! It almost feels like we have been living this way for years and I am starting to ask the question that many people who have embarked upon the Whole 30 have asked themselves, “Is this how I want to eat forever, once the cleanse is over?” I can’t tell you how I’ll feel tomorrow, or in 3 minutes but in this moment, my answer is, “YES!” I am really enjoying the energy levels I’ve had for the past week…it’s pretty amazing how well our bodies function when we give them the proper fuel.

This week, we made eggs everyday for breakfast, with a sautéed veggie on the side (zucchini, bell peppers, asparagus, were a few we loved). I quickly learned that two eggs were not enough protein for me, to last me until my next meal (especially if I was going to workout right after breakfast), so I started to add ground turkey to my scrambled eggs. This helped me so much! I was much more satiated, which leads to less cravings, which leads to you doing other things than daydreaming about a huge waffle cone with two scoops of pistachio ice cream….with hot fudge. So just trust me on this one….eat a huge breakfast.

After breakfast, I won’t have my next meal for the next couple of hours. In the meantime, I snack on bell peppers, cucumbers (I’m obsessed with the little mini ones from Sprouts or Trader Joe’s), carrots and some almonds.

For lunch I’ll bring a big salad to work. I make it really delicious so that when mealtime comes around, I can’t wait to devour it. I love a mixture of butter lettuce and spinach. I top it with baby tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cilantro, avocado & salt/pepper. Dressing is olive oil and vinegar. I always bring some sort of protein to eat after the salad. This week we made Jalapeno burgers in bulk, so I just added one to the top of my salad and it was really tasty!

The jalapeno burgers were dinner a couple of nights in a row, just because they were pre-made and so tasty (recipe here: Jalapeño Burgers ). We ate them with sweet potato chips one night, and the other night we topped the burger with a fried egg–my hubby’s personal favorite meal. Another night we made almond and coconut crusted tilapia (again in bulk) and this was my favorite meal! So much flavor and really filling.

One other great meal we made was chicken lettuce wraps with homemade guac. I seasoned the chicken with TJ’s South African Spice (great rub for chicken!) and threw it on the George Foreman. Chopped it up, placed in the lettuce cups and topped with the guac, which was one avocado, 1/2 of a red onion, 1 small jalapeno, and 1/2 of a tomato. Delish!

When I have had those cravings that just won’t quit, I had a Lara Bar, which tasted incredible, and totally did the trick!!! My favorite so far is the Cashew bar…love the flavor! When I’m craving sugar at night, I love to have 1/2 of a grapefruit or some cuties. I will do my best to cut back on the fruit this week. I allowed myself to have it this week, when I was needing something sweet, since I was detoxing from so many things.

Oh, and SOMEHOW I was able to talk my husband into trying Apple Cider Vinegar!!! He is so brave to try this Whole 30 thing and go along with all of this!

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The Whole 30

There’s never a good time to start a cleanse, but starting it after vacation is brutal. You’ve just spent the last week eating out and drinking every night and your body is in a state of shock. The shock turns into  fear utter horror when you abruptly eliminate all of these delicious toxins out of your life….for 30 days. What have I gotten myself (and my poor hubby) into?! Those Greyhounds were so tasty…and don’t even get me started on the midnight taco bell run. Yeah, it happened.

Seriously though, I am so glad that my friend introduced me to this challenge. The timing couldn’t have been better and I am SO grateful that she encouraged me to try it!  I just wrapped up my 2nd day of The Whole 30.  I’m sure by now you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about…..It is a 30 day challenge to cut out all of the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups that comprise a large part of our diets. In doing so, this allows your body to heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing and to learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day-to-day life, and your long-term health. (See more at: http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/#sthash.8RmJIuzx.dpuf).

The day before we started the challenge, I stocked up on tons of organic veggies, eggs, proteins and healthy snacks for us to fill our refrigerator for the week. I spent that night prepping my food for the week and portioning out meals for the next few days. It took time and some planning but it was really rewarding!

I plan on documenting my Whole 30 journey, taking tons of notes on our progress & sharing my favorite recipes! Here’s my first recipe for all of you……….

soup

Last night’s dinner was inspired by a picture that Danielle Walker, from Against All Grain, posted on Instagram of Leftover Roast Chicken Soup (you MUST follow her–she is incredibly inspiring! IG: @Againstallgrain).

I put my own spin on my soup to make it “Whole 30 approved” and I’m excited for all of you to try it because it turned out to be a hit!

Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients:

-4 chicken breasts

-1 can organic, diced tomatoes

-Chicken broth

-1 sweet potato

-1 head of cauliflower

-1 white onion

-1 bunch of kale

-salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon (just trust me here)

Directions:

1) Place all 4 chicken breasts (thawed) in a crock pot & set it to “low”

2) Add chopped white onion, diced sweet potato, chopped kale & chopped cauliflower

3) Next, sprinkle a small amount of cinnamon & cayenne pepper (this can be added to taste)

4)  And lastly, add a dash of salt, pepper, a generous dash of chili powder & cumin (I ended up adding more later in the day to make it super flavorful)

5) Let it all simmer on “low” for 4-5 hours. Shred the chicken, then let simmer for another 1-2 hours.

6) Serve, enjoy and enjoy again tomorrow!

*photo credit: Danielle Walker, Against All Grain

My new friend with benefits

What I’m about to say is very controversial…it’s not popular to admit, but I am going to be very candid here….the truth is I strongly disliked Kale when I first tried it. There, I said it.

Ok, so maybe I couldn’t even stand the sight of it. I know this may sound dramatic….but it’s not the tastiest veggie out there. It’s hard to chew, can be very bitter and definitely was not on my “top 10, late-night cravings” list. It was just NOT for me.

Boy am I glad I gave it another chance because this recipe has become a staple in our house and even the hubby likes it! When I need a quick, healthy side-dish, this is my go-to veggie recipe! I’m obsessed. Kale also contains numerous health benefits and is high in anti-oxidants….Win, win!

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Ingredients:

-Raw Kale (I love the bag from TraderJoe’s-pictured below)

-Low sodium Soy Sauce

-Fresh Ginger

 

Directions:

1. Spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray. I love olive-oil spray because it gives the veggies a nice flavor.

2. Once the pan is warm, throw in a generous amount of chopped, raw Kale and let it cook for 1 minute.

3. Grate some fresh Ginger and throw it on top of the Kale. I personally LOVE Ginger and use quite a bit, but it can be a strong taste, so start with a little. You can always add more.

4. Toss the Kale and Ginger in the pan then add 1-2 TBSP of low-sodium Soy Sauce. 

5. Let simmer for another 2-3 minutes or until the Kale looks soft.

6. DEVOUR….all of it!

 

I love to eat this dish on its own, but its pretty delicious paired with other main dishes as well. 

I hope you enjoy this simple & easy recipe that will change your mind about Kale! At least, it did for me :)

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BIG news!

For those of you who haven’t heard, my hubby and I recently relocated back to the Bay Area! We are all settled into our new place and I will post pictures once I get around to hanging art on the walls and making the bed. Right now, I am in “recovery mode”. Moving really takes it out of you….yes, I know they say it’s one of the most stressful things that happen in life and now I am on board with that statistic. This move nearly destroyed me. But, I am still here and back to blogging again! 

One of the biggest changes I have encountered with the move has been the extreme weather in the Bay! Apparently we moved up here on the COLDEST week the East Bay has ever seen. I know other parts of the country are seriously freezing, but I’ve never lived in a climate this cold before and I am just trying to survive at this point! It’s been in the 20′s at times, and I’ve had to make several Target runs, for cold-weather essentials. Here are a couple of my favorite cold weather looks for this Holiday season….

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Happy Holiday season to all of you out there! Stay warm!

 

 

Cinnamon Maple Breakfast Quinoa

I’m coming to you from my couch, on this chilly Saturday eve. Exciting, I know. It was either this or get in bed…being that it’s 8pm, I chose to NOT be a 90 year old woman & be productive. Plus, I figured that some of you may need a new breakfast recipe for your Sunday morning. So, here you go. You’re welcome. 

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This recipe is so easy, its ridiculous. 

Prep time: 3 min. Cook Time: 7 min.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + more for garnish
2 teaspoons butter
milk or cream, to taste
maple syrup, to taste
banana slices

(Optional: add Chia &/or Flax Seeds for added nutrients and flavor)

Instructions:

Place quinoa in water and rinse well.

Drain quinoa, then stir in 1 cup cold water, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon butter (I personally only use Earth Balance). Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Stir and microwave 3 more minutes. Remove from microwave, cover with foil and sit 2 minutes. Fluff quinoa and stir in remaining butter. Divide between 2 bowls and top with almond milk, maple syrup, banana slices and cinnamon to taste. *You can use Agave (plain or vanilla flavored) instead of Maple Syrup to cut down on the sugar.

 

5 surprising uses for coconut oil

So, it seems that lately I’ve gone a little coo coo for coconut oil. It’s kind of taking over my life & I get the feeling that my husband thinks I’m nuts. But seriously, I need to reign it in a little and stop being so obsessive over this wonderfully, perfect product. Whoops, there I go again.

Here’s the bottom line: Naturally gluten & dairy free, fights diseases, stabilizes blood sugar, packed with medium-chain triglycerides (fatty acids that deeply nourish the skin) & contains an SPF of 10 (meaning it blocks out 90% of the sun’s UV-B rays)….need I say more? If I could marry a food, we’d be hitched by now.

Ladies (and Gents), the best thing about this product? IT’S CHEAP! For a jar of cold-pressed, organic, virgin coconut oil (16 oz jar) you’ll spend about $5.99! I’m practically jumping out of my seat. I know, I’m a huge nerd.

What you may not already know, is that there are hundreds of uses for this stuff. I’ve compiled a list of 5 surprising uses, in hopes that you’ll buy yourself a jar & join me in my love for this little gem.

Makeup Remover

Coconut oil removes EVERY trace of makeup, including mascara (even waterproof)! Since trying it, I ditched my name brand makeup remover & only use coconut oil now. The drug-store makeup remover you’re currently using is most likely full of preservatives–some of them very toxic &/or carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Why not make this simple switch? It’s not messy either because, when stored in a cool place, it remains in its solid state. Also, it is super hydrating for the under eye area!

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Deodorant

This one really surprised me! How could this really work? Well, I’m here to tell you the facts: It does work & I’m currently in the process of making the change from drug-store deodorant to coconut oil. Deodorants have SO many ingredients in them, while coconut oil contains just one. The long list of ingredients in deodorant are placed in the product to keep us from sweating/excreting toxins. If these toxins do not leave our body, just imagine how harmful this must be. Things like propylene glycol (which is a component in ANTIFREEZE) and aluminum (this has been linked to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer) are in traditional deodorants, guys. Using coconut oil is a great alternative to even the “natural deodorants”…which, to be fair, are actually pretty clean but still contain ingredients that I can’t pronounce and claim to have “natural fragrance”. Where do they derive the natural fragrance from?? After reading this, I am hoping you’ll give this idea a chance!

Moisturizer & Lip Balm

About a year ago I ditched my brand name ridiculously overpriced face moisturizer & swapped it for coconut oil. My skin absolutely loves it! It contains so many healing properties, penetrates the layers of the skin on a deep level & naturally helps clear away dead skin cells! This all applies to your lips as well. It heals cracks and chapped lips in no time at all! By doing this, you will save money & love the results it gives your skin! It also contains an SPF of 10 & can be layered with your daily sunscreen.

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Bug Repellant

Yeah, weirdest use for coconut oil ever, I know. But, it works! By making your own, you’re avoiding those pesky chemicals (like DEET) that comprise main-stream bug spray.  Luckily, we don’t have to spend hours perfecting the perfect, natural bug repellant recipe…someone has already done it for us! Here is the link for the spray:

CLICK HERE

Helps with Nausea

Is there anything this oil can’t do?! Rub a small amount of coconut oil on the inside of your wrists to help calm your upset tummy. Great for infants & toddlers since it’s all natural & chemical free!

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Friends, if you end up trying out any of these ideas, let me know what you think….I would love your feedback!