BLISS

I just tried this Dr. Hauschka product for the first time, and let me just say, YES. ¬†This is worth the money. ¬†It smells like a wintry forest and immediately transported me to that snowed-in, cozy and peaceful state of mind. ¬†It can be used in the bath or as a hot compress on the face (mix a drop in a bowl of warm water, use to wet a face cloth and then hold the cloth over your face. ¬†It will also cleanse the skin when used this way). ¬†The essential oils of Norwegian Spruce (Picea excelsa) clear the airways, encourage deep breathing, alleviate emotional distress and physical exhaustion (I should travel with this!), and bring a radiant, vital glow to pale, tired skin. ¬†If you’d rather make this on your own, just buy a bottle of Spruce essential oil and add a few drops to the bath, only beware of applying it to your face: even in the form of a compress, the oils are extremely strong and can burn the skin. ¬†This is why I think this product is worth the money, because it is so heavenly held up to the airways, and the oils have been diluted for that reason.

Dr. Hauschka Spruce Bath, $32.95

Go to drhauschka.com to find a retailer near you.

on packing for a journey

It’s official. ¬†I love packing for trips. ¬†I don’t know what it is, but every time there is a journey on my horizon (even if it is only one state over), I ¬†channel my travel excitement by thoughtfully curating the contents of my suitcase. ¬†I try to incorporate the locale as inspiration for everything I bring from clothes, ipod mixes and reading lists, although I almost always find that my expectations about a place never align with what I actually experience there. ¬†That’s okay though, it’s part of the fun! ¬†My great uncle, who was a brilliant ornithologist, always said that when your preconceived notions are being turned upside down, you should pay attention, because that’s when you’ll learn something. ¬†I look forward to the steep learning curve that begins upon my arrival at a destination, but in the build up to that point, I have to satisfy myself with the fun of packing my suitcase.

When I have the travel bug, I also curl up with a favorite book, The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton. ¬† My Sea Semester shipmate and friend, Adriana, who is the kind of fearless traveller that I aspire to be, recommended it to me several years ago and I have read it at least 5 times since (am currently on the last chapter). ¬†Botton majestically articulates so many things that I have felt when traveling, but have never been able to put my finger on. ¬†¬†Moreover, he uses mini chapters about some of history’s most famous travelers and their experiences to help his readers better understand the curious phenomenon that is the human impulse to be ‘somewhere other than here.’ ¬†I have an embarrassing habit of crying when I reach my destination. ¬†I always assumed that it was due to a dangerous combination of fatigue, hunger, jet lag, a stimulus overload, the anti-clamatic achievement of what I have been anticipating for so long, and my generally emotional disposition, but after reading this book, I not only felt better about my penchant for emotional outbursts, I appreciated what they ultimately signify: ¬†a tremendous and humbling sense of awe at suddenly, after confinement in the sterile belly of a jet, being there, not here. ¬†This is a beautiful read even when you don’t have a flight booked.

Here are my thoughts on respectful dressing as a traveler:

In choosing what to wear when I travel, I try to be both sensitive to the “when in Rome” adage and reflective of the best aspects of my own style and culture. ¬†I don’t think that a considerate traveler needs to think like chameleon in terms of dress, because speaking from the perspective of a local in a tourist town, I can pretty much spot the tourists no matter what, and to be honest, I enjoy the influx of diverse style (no, disney world t-shirts, fanny packs and baggy shorts don’t count as style) that hits the town each summer. ¬†That said, doing the proper research in advance of a trip can alert you to major fashion taboos and prevent you from coming across as disrespectful. ¬†For example, for my trip to Greece, where I attended a greek orthodox wedding, I read up on appropriate attire in churches (which for women means covered shoulders and heads), at beaches (if you want naked, go to the south of france! ¬†the Greeks keep things covered), and in cities. ¬†Furthermore, traveling can be a great opportunity to open you up to new styles, and it can be a chance for you to wear things you’d never wear at home. ¬†I.E. Newport vs. New York: in Newport, I stick to casual (i’m talking jorts and plaid flannels, people) because only tourists think you have to be dressed up to go out here, whereas when i visit New York, it’s fun to get fancy. ¬†Generally speaking, however, if you avoid looking like a scrub when visiting someone else’s community, you can’t really go wrong.

Adendum: If you are traveling as a camper, disregard all of this. ¬†Except maybe pack one jersey dress in a dark color (won’t show dirt or wrinkle) for when you venture into civilization, which is what I did when I went camping in Puerto Rico. ¬†And for any boys reading this, maybe save one wrinkle-resistant collared shirt in a ziplock bag? ¬†I don’t know. ¬†You tell me.

Okay, now after all this pontificating about culture and respect and international travel, you might be curious to know where I will be journeying, and you might laugh to know the answer, but YOU WILL NOT RAIN ON MY PARADE: I’m going to Claremont NH! ¬†My cousin is getting married there in a few weeks…more on my suitcase contents later. ¬†Excuse me, I have to go pack.

Flora

I’m back in the shop at Sayles Livingston Flowers (sayleslivingstonflowers.com) for the week, helping make arrangements for weddings happening around RI this weekend. ¬†Here is some of the raw material we’re working with. ¬†For a really interesting read on the floriculture (cut flower) industry in an enjoyable, journalistic style similar to Michael Pollan, check out Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart. ¬†I actually couldn’t put the book down and used it in a research paper for my independent study in horticulture at Brown.

The best spa in town…

..is right in your own home.  Here is the routine I threw together for myself the other day.  Open your kitchen cabinets, get out your gardening clippers, and prepare to relax, people!

1. Spend some time outside. ¬†Go for a run, hit the beach, work in the garden, anything. ¬†Wear sunscreen. ¬†Tucker yourself out; it will help you to relax. ¬†And while you’re at it, squeeze a fresh lemon over your hair to gently speed up the sun-highlighting process. ¬†You don’t need those nasty hair dyes and astronomical salon bills!

2. Cut some flowers and make an arrangement for your bathroom. ¬†You’ll appreciate it when you’re brushing your teeth in the morning. ¬†Don’t have a flower garden? ¬†Consider making a green arrangement by cutting leafy branches from trees that may or may not belong to you.

2. Make tea.

Today, I steeped 2 green tea bags with one ‘white tea with pomegranate‘ bag, rosebud petals from the garden (careful! ¬†make sure no one has put any rose systemics or sprays down), and fresh mint, then added honey and a dash of lemon juice. ¬†Pomegranate fruits and green tea are packed with antioxidants. ¬†Tea is hydrating, which helps plump your skin. ¬†Caffeine helps reduce puffiness and dark circles under the eyes. ¬†Mint smells nice. ¬†Lemon and honey added flavor, and rose petals are used in face creams all the time, so I thought they’d probably do me some good in tea as well. ¬†I steep my green tea at 180 degrees, because at hotter temperatures, the tannins in the leaves are released and give the tea a bitter taste that I can’t stand.

3. Take a bath.

Add a cup of milk, a handful of sea salt and a few drops of lavender essential oil.  Drink your iced tea while you bathe to keep cool, and put the flower arrangement at the end of the tub so you have something beautiful to stare at while you let your mind wander.

The lactic acids in milk will help slough off dead skin cells, making skin radiant and soft.  Salt is a natural antibacterial, which helps to clean your pores and reduce inflammation.  I buy my sea salt at the grocery store and can get a pint-sized container for about 3 bucks.

Lavender essential oil contains chemicals synthesized by the plant which are proven to reduce stress by lowering levels of the hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. ¬†This pesky hormone is also responsible for increasing oil secretion in the skin and thereby causing stress-induced breakouts. ¬†You don’t have to ingest essential oils to benefit from their properties: because of their high volatility, merely breathing in the aroma will do the trick. ¬†Don’t be fooled by cheap bubble baths that contain ‘lavender fragrance,’ as this is a synthetic replication of the scent and doesn’t have any of the homeopathic properties of the real oil. ¬†In short, I bought a 3 oz bottle of Lavender essential oil at whole foods for about $30 bucks, and use it almost every day. ¬†Even so, a year later the bottle is still half full; it’s a worthy investment, and it’s one of the best things in my medicine cabinet! ¬†You can also put a few drops in your wet hair after a shower. ¬†Just avoid putting it directly on skin without diluting.

Wash your skin with a scrubby sponge (to wipe away those cells the milk has softened) and my best beauty friend, Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Oil bar soap, about $4 at whole foods. ¬†People comment all the time on how soft my skin is, and I promise you, this soap is responsible. ¬†(It is also MUCH better than the Dr. B liquid soap). ¬†It makes a wonderful lather and I use it for shaving cream as well.

Finish up with your favorite body lotion. ¬†I like Burt’s Bees Milk and Honey body lotion, $9 at most drugstores, and have been using it since high school.

4. After your bath, whip up this mask that is supermodel Daria Werbowy’s best beauty secret: Mix an egg with a dash of olive oil and honey, smear on your face, neck, chest, back, whatever, and hang out as long as you can stand it. ¬†I usually try to keep it on for 15 minutes. ¬†Then hop in the shower and rinse off with warm water. ¬†I’ve long heard that egg yolks, which are high in vitamin A, are a cure-all for acne and skin aging and I used to put plain egg yolks on my face. ¬†I’m not sure what the whites do (anybody? ¬†chime in), but the olive oil helps to mitigate the drying effects of the egg, and honey is a natural humectant, meaning it will lock moisture into your skin. ¬†Plus they make the egg smell a little less potent.

Afterwards, I moisturize with a drop of argan oil, which I spread on my palms and then very lightly coat my face. ¬†This stuff is like a liquid gold moisturizer, and has been a traditional treatment for eczema, acne, hair, everything for centuries. ¬†At whole foods, the unit price is $500 per pint!!! ¬†Luckily, it also lasts a very long time, because you only need the tiniest bit with each use. ¬†Try Josie Maran Argan Oil, $48 at sephora.com. ¬†It will last you a year, I promise, and the oil comes from a women’s cooperative in Morocco.

(If you are new to the world of natural beauty, you may be appalled by the idea of putting oil on your face, because you have been taught to buy “oil free” products since puberty. ¬†Plant oils and petrochemical oils, however, are two very different kettles of fish. ¬†Petroleum based oils form an impervious barrier between your skin and the air, which traps dirt, natural oil, sweat, toxins and everything else your skin needs to expel, in. ¬†Plant oils, on the other hand, very closely mimic the composition of your own natural body oils, and allow your skin to breath. ¬†Just a drop will do! ¬†Trust me, it’s magical.)

5. Pick up a nail polish in a snazzy summer color to finish the experience.

It’s a gaping hole in my chemical-free lifestyle, but I just can’t give it up. ¬†Luckily, J.crew now sells an exclusive line of colors from Essie, which, as I’ve mentioned before, formulate their polish without the really bad stuff, Toluene, Formaldehyde and DBP. ¬†(For the full range of colors, check out essie.com) ¬†If you are strong enough to avoid nail polish completely (good for you!) get a nail buffer to give your nails a smooth, shiny look without the nasty chemicals.

6. Finally, slip into something comfortable.  Frog and Toad in Providence has the most beautiful Indian printed bathrobes right now, but since I am completely broke and very unemployed, I go for a boxers-and-tee number.  So, are you relaxed?