Using Essential Oils to Support Your Whole 30

I did it, guys. I completed the Whole30!

And I have to be honest- it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Besides the scale victory (down ten pounds!) I have tons of bigger, non-scale victories- more energy, better sleep, less bloating, and newfound knowledge of what does and doesn’t work with my body. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t done it yet!

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about or are on the fence about it, I would suggest starting by reading this book. It outlines the philosophy behind Whole 30 and the WHY of each thing you cut out. It honestly convinced me that it was worth it: once I read the book, I knew I was IN. 🙂

Completing a whole 30 in Africa was an interesting experience, too. While it is undoubtedly cheaper (fresh produce and meats are a fraction of what they would cost in the states) there are practically zero compliant prepared food options- I had to hunt around the city just to find compliant coconut milk and compliant raisins. Tessamaes? Primal bars? Forget about it.

However- I discovered a secret weapon during my whole 30 that made it worlds easier, and I didn’t expect it at all! You may have guessed by the title of the post: my essential oils!

Psst….looking for more tips on healthy living, essential oils, and even the Whole 30? This year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle is FULL of them! 107 resources- a $3600+ value- for just $29.97. Grab yours now, only available until Monday! 

Because our essential oils are the purest of pure plant compounds, they are definitely compliant- score! I ended up using my oils for a variety of things during my whole 30. Here’s some of my favorites:

CRAVINGS:

My craving were REAL the first week or so! One of my favorite tricks was to drink water with Grapefruit essential oil. Grapefruit is great for curbing cravings, as well as balancing blood sugar and hormones! It also gives a boost of vitamin C. Other oils can be used this way, too- Lemon, Lime, Peppermint, etc- but Grapefruit is particularly good.

BLOATING / DIGESTION:

So, I found the official Whole 30 timeline to be VERY accurate. That said, there’s a discussion about gut rebalancing and how that can cause indigestion around the second week- and that was definitely true for me. I totally didn’t expect this! That said, I made great use of digestive oils and oils that cut down on bloating- citrus oils in my water, and DigestZen and Cardamom or Peppermint applied topically to my tummy. The rebalancing process can take a week or more, but using my oils, I cut it down to about 36 hours!

MENTAL SUPPORT:

This was HUGE. Honestly, there were just times that I was stressed or anxious or frustrated or sad and I wanted to EAT. I didn’t realize how emotionally tied I was to eating until doing the Whole 30! I made great use of my oils during these hard times: Peace, Motivation, Hope, and Cheer were all huge assets, as was a morning and evening application of Balance just to keep me grounded!  I loved having something else (something much healthier!) to turn to during those times, rather than grabbing the nearest carb.

DETOX AID:

The Whole 30 definitely functions as a detox, and I used my oils to support the process. Lemon in all my water (as much as I could remember) kept my system alkaline and help flush out toxins. Using Zendocrine under the tongue once a day and then a Cilantro application on the feet once a week helped as well!

RESTFUL SLEEP:

Sleep is a big thing in Whole 30. Especially if your detox reaction is strong, your sleep might be WORSE at first, but then get drastically better by the end- I promise! I used Serenity and Cedarwood to boost my body’s natural melatonin production, and Vetiver to quiet my mind at night. Diffusing Serenity and using the new Serenity gel caps also made it easier for me to fall back to sleep at night after waking to feed the baby- especially if I was starting to feel a bit hungry (which I sometimes did, especially in the beginning).

How about you? Did you use essential oils to support your Whole 30? What worked well for you?

For more information on purchasing Whole 30 compliant, pure as can be essential oils, please email me at karli.vonherbulis@gmail.com 🙂

Friday Favorites #4

Friday Favorites is back! All the things I’ve loved from the interwebs this week, and a few products I’m crushing on. Enjoy! 

This beautiful and challenging, short writing on marriage and how time affects the allure of one another. I really loved this! 

Real life places that belong in a Wes Anderson film. This gave me life y’all. 

My friend Danielle opened her new health & wellness consulting business! I’m so excited for her! 

Maklemore’s birthday celebration for his grandma. Yes. 

This piece about implicit bias in missionaries and sometimes humor being racist….super convicting. 

This girl

This couple crowdsourced some photoshopping….hilarity ensues. Legit LOL for this one.

This collaboration between Coach and NASA. gimme all the things! 

This card commercial about infertility and community. SO MANY FEELS.

Need. ALL. The cannoli!  

A list of all the dangerous things you should let your kids do. Some of these would be super hard for me. But others we already encourage daily 😉 

The IG account @youdidnotsleepthere 🙂

Gimme this cheesecake. 

Gollum reading Trump tweets. Dying.

My Summer Reading List

Behold, my (ambitious) summer reading list! I’m already chipping away at a few of these, but it will likely take me to the end of the year to finish them all. Have you read any of them?

Cultivate by Lara Casey. I am midway through this one and I am loving it- it’s especially wonderful for us women who are feeling pulled between motherhood and other talents/skills and how the heck we honor the Lord through different seasons and make what matters happen- whatever that is.

Only Love Today. I’ve loved Rachel Macy Stafford’s last few books- they have challenged me to my core as a mother to be present with my family and to take big, bold steps to having an unplugged life that honors my children. I can’t wait to read her next one!

 

Harry Potter… my goal for 2017 is to finish reading the Harry Potter series. I just started the Order of the Phoenix!

Americanah. I actually don’t know anything about this book, other than it’s been critically acclaimed and on a number of “must read” “best book” lists, so I decided to add it to mine. Anyone read it yet?

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters– this book is a popular one here in the East Africa expat community, as it details a lot of history of the region, particularly Congo. It’s been recommended to me several times, and I finally got my hands on a copy.

At Home In The World- confession, I actually just finished this one. It’s fabulous and you should download it ASAP. It’s inspiring and fun to read and now I want to travel the world with my kids!

The Handmaid’s Tale– another one I don’t know a ton about (and I haven’t watched the series either) but it keeps showing up/people keep recommending it to me. I love dystopian fiction and apparently this fits the bill….

Little Women. I’m trying to read more classics and my BFF got me this one for my birthday! And the cover is by Rifle Paper Co, so, duh. I wanna read it. 🙂

Of Mess and Moxie. Jen Hatmaker forever. This doesn’t release until August but I’m grateful to have gotten an advance copy and it is SO good, y’all. I have laughed out loud so many times, and I’m an internal processor, so that’s saying something. I’ve been encouraged and challenged and you just need to read it! So much good! PREORDERS NOW AVAILABLE. HOLLA!

Last Child in the Woods. This has been on my shelf FOREVER but especially as we look to the future and dream about what we want life to look like for our kids as they get older, I think I need to read this to help solidify my parenting principles 🙂

BONUS: The Bible. Specifically, this one. I just got it and I love it. My goal is to finish before my 30th birthday, so I gave myself a year! Really though, if you’re looking for a new Bible, these are beautiful and affordable.

So there you have it- my ambitious summer reading list- spanning fiction, history, encouragement, parenting, and beyond. Are any of these on your list? What are you looking to read this summer?

THE WHOLE 30: My Experience


Ok guys. I finished the Whole 30 yesterday. I’m gonna have a few posts on this in the coming weeks, but I wanna just do a quick stream-of-consciousness and results review while it’s fresh! 

First, what I feel like everyone wants to know right off the bat: I did lose 10.5 pounds. Whole 30 says that you shouldn’t step on a scale for the entire 30 days, but I totally don’t have that much self control, so I can say this: the first 8 pounds came off in the first week. Another 2 came off in the following week, and then I held steady until the last few days of the month, when I dipped again to 10.5. Just in case you’re curious. My clothes fit better (or don’t fit anymore…) and I just feel- lighter? Yes. Lighter. In all the ways.

However, it’s really the non scale victories (NSVs) that I am most grateful for- especially because I didn’t really set out to lose weight (though I’m not complaining). The biggest reason I wanted to do Whole 30 was to feel better- to have less bloating and more energy. And I got it! 

The bloat was gone almost immediately. Though, I will say, I found the published Whole 30 timeline to be very accurate: around day 10-11, you have a period of indigestion and discomfort as your gut rebalances. That was REAL. I felt so gross. But it didn’t take long at all to recover and then feel good again in my gut 😉 

The energy though- that took much longer. I think I was Day 18 or so before I started realizing that I was waking up easily in the morning, with energy (even with getting up multiple times at night with my son) and I wasn’t dying for a nap in the middle of the day. I was able to use my mornings productively- cooking myself breakfast and doing yoga before my daughter would wake, and sometimes even having time for a shower and meditation. I also found that I had the energy to use the kids’ naptimes well- and I even felt like I WANTED to work out. Like I had the energy to burn and my body was craving it! This culminated with me going for my first run in about a year on Day 30- a celebration of sorts. This was really the only legit workout I did during the 30 days save for some morning sun salutations, so the results are really from the diet change. 

I also got into a habit of cooking all of my meals- which I mostly did anyway, by now really is like second nature. Example: I used a bit of coconut milk for dinner last night, and I instinctively threw the leftovers into a Tupperware and made chia pudding for a meal for today. Even though technically, today, I could revert back to toast and peanut butter. But I don’t want to!

I also have gotten in the habit of keeping already prepped food in my fridge- pre-chopped vegetables, already made sauces, a container of caramelized onions. Jen Hatmaker said recently that whole 30 is really about “keeping containers of food in your fridge” and she’s right. I tried to always have 2-3 vegetables ready to roast or throw in a stir fry, and it saved me many times when I was hungry but short on time. I’m now in the habit of chopping up one veggie a day. I always have things ready! 

Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that I don’t feel a burning desire to add foods back in. Sure, I had hard moments of saying no to freshly baked focaccia or a friends birthday cake, and I had a few days when I really really wanted a beer, but honestly? I have eaten so well in the past 30 days. I don’t miss the food, save for the occasional treat of gelato or a drink to end the day. I think I will mostly continue to eat this way, moving forward. I plan on doing the “slow burn” reintroduction plan, in which you really just reintroduce foods as they become appealing or “worth it” to you. Dairy and legumes I don’t really miss, so I’m going to wait on those…. 

So what are my thoughts about the Whole 30? You should do it! Seriously. If you have ever had an unhealthy relationship with food, or any bad eating habits, or you want to know what’s making you feel tired/sick all day, you should do Whole 30. If you follow the guidelines, you’ll learn how to eat to fuel your body and build good habits for your life! 

*note: I did some specific things because I am breastfeeding to help me be successful, namely doubling the recommended allowance for plated fats and allowing myself snacks as my hunger cues dictated. More in a post next week! 

Friday Favorites #2

 

Welcome back to Friday Favorites, where I get to talk about my fave things from this week and share them with you! What are you loving this week?

FAVE LINKS THIS WEEK:

This article about the need for organizations to shift tactics towards local leadership and equipping local people, rather than bringing in outside solutions. Bravo!!

This is a great write up on toy minimalism and how it fosters more creativity and contentment in our children. I love the idea of toys being well-chosen and thoughtful and versatile! We try to do this as much as we can.

Rwanda is planning to build an amusement park. It’s fine. Another reason to come visit!

Not really a link but….. Choose Joy just announced that their conference will be on the East Coast next year! It’s a dream of mine to go….so if you can, do it!

This is an old article, but worth sharing every Mother’s Day. Be conscious of those who will have a hard time this Sunday, and make a point of celebrating all incarnations of motherhood!

Shauna Niequist started her own podcast and I’m newly addicted to podcasts so this is the best. Woot!

The BowWow Challenge. Y’all. This is hysterical.

I loved reading Tori’s tips on living a Whole30 lifestyle while traveling as a flight attendant. I feel so much better on Whole30 and anticipate my future diet to be fairly similar, so this was great for me!

STUFF I’M LOVING

I started reading Tsh Oxenreider’s new book  yesterday and it is sooooo good and makes me wanna plan great trips with my kids!

Richard Rohr’s daily meditation emails.  I don’t always get to read them but I’m grateful when I do.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast. So fun, and so many great guests!

Barbra Ignatiev’s artwork. I love her #mermay prints! I have one as my phone background 🙂

Cat and Jack baby sleepers. I am so sad they only go up to 6-9months (at least online) because we are outgrowing them all!

This quiche recipe from goop. Such a staple for my Whole30 (almost done!)

Doterra’s motivate blend. My secret sauce! 

Emily Ley’s new planner cover release. Swoon! WHAT TO PICK THIS YEAR?!

Be Still Clothing Company. Can I have all these shirts please? 

Sakura Bloom’s collab with Mr.BlueSkye. Have you seen these slings? They are magicalllllll!

The New / Expecting Mama Gift Guide

 

No surprise- as I sit here with a sleeping 4 month old on my chest, new mamas have a special place in my heart this year! I feel like it’s hard to get these ladies to even think about what they want for themselves, and if they do- a lot of times people are too busy spoiling the baby to notice! So with that in mind, here’s some great companies that are making beautiful things that will bless the new or expecting mama in your life- and a few bonus gifts for baby, too 🙂

Write the Word Journal

I use this every day! I discovered this product early in motherhood and I am so grateful that I did. Each day has a short passage of scripture to write out in your journal and then a space to write your thoughts. It’s just enough guidance to not feel overwhelming, but enough freedom to let each day be what it needs to be. I usually take about 10 minutes or less- very doable during naptime! I love their new themed selection, too.

Carefull Candles

Currently burning as I write! My friend Caroline makes these candles, and they are nontoxic, too! Typically, candles are full of terrible chemicals that can legit make you (and baby) sick, but these not only smell incredible but are totally safe. Our favorite: Balsam and Cedar. We are addicted.

Harry’s Razors

I’m a new convert to Harry’s and I’m never going back! It’s a disposable razor head with a reusable handle. Super affordable, super high quality. If you’re only gonna get to shave your legs once every 2 weeks, might as well do it right, yes?

RTIC cup

Like Yeti but for people on a budget. I live in Africa and my RTIC cup goes with me everywhere, and legit keeps my water cold even if it’s left in my car baking in the African sun! New mamas need to drink lots of water, and this definitely makes it more enjoyable. Bonus: get a pack of fun straws to go with it!

Lularoe Leggings

If you don’t know, now you know. LuLaRoe makes incredibly comfortable and flattering clothes for women in any stage of life. Their leggings are to die for! If you don’t already know a retailer, comment below and I’ll hook you up: I think I know like 30, ha!

Wildbird Sling

I LOVE my Wildbird sling. I’ve tried a TON of different baby carrier options, and the Wildbird is the perfect mix of stylish and functional! They are exceptionally well made and come in a huge variety of trendy but versatile color options. We love our Mallard!

Lipsense Intro Kit

Self care goes right out the window for new mamas. But a little lipstick can work some magic, I tell you! Lipsense has revolutionized my makeup routine: it stays COMPLETELY put for up to 18 hours (and I’ve pushed it further) and it has really healed my lips, too! My sweet SIL sells it, and you can join her FB group here to find out more!

DoTERRA Family Essentials Kit

If you’ve read this blog for even a second, you know that I love essential oils! I was gifted a Family Essentials Kit when I was pregnant with my daughter and I haven’t looked back. It’s changed the way we handle our wellness in our family! If you’d like more information, please email me at karli.vonherbulis@gmail.com! {BONUS: get $50 in free oils in May!}

Dwell + Slumber Gown

I don’t actually own one of these but I’m crushing SO hard on them. Anyone wanna get one for Me? Ha! They are pregnancy dresses and pushing gowns and nursing dresses and nightgowns all in one and they are so beautiful.

Fraiche Interiors

Morgan is the sweetest maker in all the land and she makes incredibly beautiful textiles for babies! Swaddles, hats, nursery sets, boppy covers, you name it- and soooo many different fabrics, it’s hard to pick a favorite. She helped me find the perfect sheep print for when Shepherd was born, and he still sleeps on his organic swaddle every night 🙂

Cuddle and Kind

My new kids stuffed animal obsession, My best friend gifted our kids each a deer form Christmas, and they are obsessed. Halle sleeps with hers each night, and we use Shep’s as a size comparison in his monthly photos! Bonus: each purchase donates 10 meals to hungry children. And could they get any cuter?

Greeting the World with The Honest Company

Living in Africa- especially with children and ESPECIALLY with a newborn- presents a number of challenges that just aren’t a part of life in the developed world. We feel strongly about exposing our children to life in Africa (as opposed to sheltering them) as much as possible, but we have so many things to think about here- and one of the big ones is hygiene.

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Many sicknesses that have been eradicated or are very scarce in the US are still a part of life here in Rwanda- typhoid, yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, and a cornucopia of different intestinal woes are all sicknesses that happen in relative frequency here, which means that we have to be prepared! Even something as simple as shaking a hand on the street or children playing together should be, for us (as our immune systems aren’t used to the same germs) conducted with caution.

See, I will never forget the first time our daughter visited the Kibagabaga preschool and shook hands with each child through the fence. Or when we waited at our church for her daddy to get off of work, and she ended up being led by the hand into a room where the schoolchildren sang songs to her. The delight and adventure in her eyes as she got to follow these new friends and experience their world is something I want her to experience every day. It fills my heart with joy. But in the back of my mind, as a mama, I have to think- could she be being exposed to something that might make her sick?

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One of our favorite tools for making our lives peaceful and worry-free is Honest Company’s Hand Sanitizer. I keep one in my purse and one in my diaper bag- and I can watch my little one knowing that she is having the time of her life and that I don’t have to fret about the germs- it kills 99% on contact, using plant-based ingredients! It’s gentle but still super-effective.

It’s crazy that something so small and simple (and affordable!) can give me such peace of mind, and empower me to be more confident in meeting new people here in a different culture! I can let new friends greet our baby with the knowledge that I am doing something to protect my little one. We can build relationships while also keeping ourselves healthy- and that makes a huge difference in my heart. Thank you, Honest Company!

Shepherd’s Birth Story

Our dear little buddy is turning 3 months old this week, so I think it’s high time I share his birth story!

Just like his sister, our precious little guy was about as late as you can go before anyone starts getting nervous- 11 days after my due date! Over the few weeks prior, we had several occurrences of false labor, and we knew that I was dilated 2-3cm already, so we figured he would come anytime. He had other plans!

For a few days before his birth, I tried many, many things to get him to come out- you might remember my post 40 ways to go into labor, well, we probably tried 38 of them! Finally, on day 10 (the day before he came) I said ENOUGH. I believed that my body knew what it was doing and that he would come when he was ready. My labor with Hallelujah was nightmarish and I didn’t want a repeat, and I remember trying EVERYTHING to get her to come. It’s like my body finally gave up and went into labor with her, but didn’t really want to yet. I didn’t want the same experience.

So, on day 10, I decided to rest in the Lord and the fact that he made my body perfectly (even though many times it’s not seemed that way). I felt this peace about just waiting and making the most of my day- and I did! I decided to cherish those moments with Halle and take what could be (and was) a last opportunity to really make her feel loved before Shepherd came. We walked to the bagel store and the grocery store, went for a swim in the frigid pool and drank hot cocoa while we swam, took a bath, took a nap, and took her to her first ever movie in a theater (Moana). We had a quiet night at home and just enjoyed each other’s company!

And then, before I knew it, I woke up at about 4:45 to basically feel like I was peeing myself (if you know me IRL you know that I know this feeling well). I stood up out of bed quickly and….it stopped? Did I really just pee myself in my sleep? I went to the bathroom and noticed that it didn’t smell like pee, didn’t really have a smell at all. I had read about / had several friends who had high water leaks, where your water breaks near the top of the uterus and then the baby’s head plugs up the hole when you stand up- so I figured that might be what was happening. I decided to lay down and go back to sleep.

Around 6am, it happened again- basically confirming what I knew. I got up, changed my pants (again) and made myself a protein shake while I still had an appetite. I was having contractions maybe 5-6 minutes apart, but nothing major. Around 6:45, I woke Matthew up and told him we needed to get ready- the contractions were getting closer together. He insisted on showering (insert eye roll for my husband who takes the longest showers of any man) while I got things together. I called the midwife, who agreed that I should come in (we were almost an hour away from the birth center) and called Matthew’s mom to have her meet us at the birth center.

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We woke Halle up and told her that her brother was coming! She was excited and behaved well as we gathered our things and got ready to go. We were in the car and headed to the birth center at about 7:30. We listened to the Hamilton soundtrack the whole way (we are sooo obsessed)! However, I began to get discouraged as my contractions slowed down to every 8-10 minutes apart. Could this seriously be another bout of false labor? I honestly think I would’ve turned around and gone home, except for my suspicion that my water was broken.

We arrived at the birth center at about 8:30, and I was completely comfortable. The midwife (Michelle, who also owned the birth center, and made our “coming from overseas” experience a breeze)) checked me and said that I was 5cm and that I was definitely having Shepherd that day! I was so relieved. After so many false starts, I was ready to go!

I told Matthew the good news (and Debbie, his mama, and Halle, who were in the waiting room together) and we went to unpack in our room. We were the only ones there in labor at the time, so we had our pick- and we chose a pretty room with a tub in-room- because of Halle’s shoulder dystocia, we wanted everything (bed and tub) close together so we could avoid having to move me mid-birth, haha! We were psyched that out ideal room was available- the bed even had a mosquito net over it, just like at home in Rwanda!

The birth assistant began filling up the tub while we unpacked. I told her I was concerned about getting in the tub too early and slowing down labor, but both she and the midwife assured me that I was already in active labor and it was fine. So I got in for a bit- it was sooooo relaxing but, after Halle’s hard birth, I couldn’t help but feel like nothing was happening! I was restless. This was too easy, right?

We decided that going for a walk would make me feel better, like I was “working”. The birth center was just a few blocks from the St John’s River, so we walked down to the riverfront a few times, The contractions stayed consistent but not painful. Soon, our photographer and dear friend Kristy, arrived!

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Around 11:30, my contractions began to be stronger, andI stayed in bed for a bit to try to relax all of my muscles and let my body do it’s. This is when Halle decided to come give me a “checkup”- cue the preciousness! I also labored on the toilet for a bit. Everything was feeling more intense, but I was really fine! Michelle decided to check me, and I just KNEW that I would only be like 6 cm. To my surprise, I was 8!

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I knew from my education that 8-10cm, or “transition”, can be the most intense part of birth. I wasn’t feeling that at all- that is, until Michelle pulled my bag of waters down and released all of the fluid that was left. I was laying on a chux pad on the bed, and so much fluid came out that I was soaked up to my shoulders! Holy moly. Weirdest feeling ever. And….cue the cray cray contractions- no water to balance out the pressure, it was go time!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that, to release the water still left in my uterus, Michelle actually had to push Shepherd’s head UP and allow the water to drain out. So then, when my body went from 8-10cm in about 10 minutes, when I felt like I needed to push, he wasn’t actually down in the birth canal where he should’ve been. My body was pushing but he wasn’t there yet- it was exhausting. Even though they kept telling me not to bear down, I couldn’t help it- that’s the only thing that felt right at the time. This started at about 1:15pm.

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So, I labored on the toilet and then in the tub for a while. I got very nauseous at one point, but was quickly given nux vomica and it went away completely (amazing!). It was hard and more of a mental strain maybe than anything- knowing that he needed to move down and re-engage before my pushing would actually be productive. Finally, at about 2:15, Michelle said it was time to really work! He was ready and so were we.

Michelle and I had previously discussed my plan for the actual birth, especially in regards to Halle’s shoulder dystocia. While one dystocia doesn’t necessarily mean you are predisposed to it, it can- and I didn’t want to take any chances. So we had decided early on in the morning that I would deliver on the bed, flat on my back, so that my knees could be pushed up to my head and Shepherd would have optimal room to get under my pelvic bone. Not my ideal, to be sure, but I wanted a healthy baby, so I didn’t hesitate.

 

 

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After pushing for about 10 minutes, a receptionist came in and told us that our dear friend Keri had arrived! Keri is an LDRP nurse and I wanted her to be at the birth SO badly- but she had been scheduled to work that day. But, surprise! She had left work and made it JUST in time. She dutifully kept a cold rag on my head while Matthew helped hold my legs up and encouraged me. Kristy kept taking amazing photos- man! I had the best team ever!

Finally, at 2:42 pm, Shepherd was born! Matthew caught him and lifted him to my chest in one of the most surreal moments of my life. Especially after so many losses- to hold my miracle son was like a dream. His placenta soon followed, and after we were both examined to be in perfect health- yes, you read that right, almost ten pounds of baby without a stitch 🙂

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Little man nursed right away and we had some quiet moments to ourselves between Matthew’s family coming to visit. Uncle Maverick and Aunt Mony brought us Smoothie King (because I was craving it) and we waited to be discharged. I have to be honest, I felt like I took longer to recover from this birth than the last at first- I think with Halle, I basically fell asleep immediately after birth for about an hour and then felt great, but with Shepherd I was lucid the entire time but felt very weak for a few hours- probably due to my low iron throughout my pregnancy. Though, luckily, I was apparently the only client that didn’t hemmhorage that day!

By about 8:00, we were ready to go! We packed up the car and drove to Matthew’s family’s home, where we spent our first two nights. Shepherd slept 5 hours in a row, and has been doing that ever since! He is a dream and we are so grateful for our little man and a great birth experience!

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Say Goodbye to Boring Gifts!

Alright y’all. If you actually know me personally, you may already know that gifts are my love language- giving and receiving. If you don’t already know, well- there’s nothing that makes my heart sing quite like picking out something amazing and unexpected that I know a loved one will just ADORE- especially if it’s something they’ve never seen or heard of or thought of before. Wanna know a secret? I have a source…Uncommon Goods!


I first found Uncommon Goods a few years back when searching for whiskey stones to get my husband for Christmas. What I stumbled upon was not just whiskey stones, but an entire site devoted to amazing, unique, small-maker products that made my gift giving love language soar to new heights. From the very beginning, I have worked hard to feature products that value sustainability and social/environmental responsibility, and Uncommon Goods is no exception. They are committed to working with small manufacturers and artists to bring the world products that do no harm to people or animals (so, no leather, fur, or feathers!) and they are a founding B Corporation member!

So what can you find at Uncommon Goods? Seriously…something for everyone. I spent several hours the other night just drooling over all of the awesome gifts- from gorgeous jewelry to homemade kombucha kits to socks that look like sushi to personalized champagne flutes! With spring upon us, you should consider Uncommon Goods for amazing, unique wedding gifts– no boring old toasters here. How about champagne flutes etched like trees, or a personalized cutting board?


I especially love this site for finding unique, unforgettable gifts for bridal parties- both bridesmaids and groomsmen! When I got married, we actually opted to make donations to the charity of each person’s choice rather than giving a gift, because I just didn’t want to add one more thing to the “gifts I’ll never use” pile from my friends. But had I seen these options….

Why give your faithful bridesmaids a piece of jewelry they might never wear again when you could give them something that shows just how well you know them, like a throw pillow embroidered with a special place, or a carry-on cocktail kit to make their favorite drink on their way home from the wedding? If jewelry is your style, though, there are gorgeous options- like a gold-dipped lace necklace, or super unique tiny planter earrings! 


And then there’s your dapper groomsmen– a flask or a knife is a great gift, but with Uncommon Goods, you can level up. How about a set of cuff links made from the stadium seating of their favorite team? Or maybe a custom growler is more their style- so much classier than a flask these days. Gift your men with something they will cherish for years to come- and know that you are being socially and environmentally responsible, too. 

Whatever the occasion- Uncommon Goods has your back. I love finding the perfect gift for my loved ones, and I have a blast looking through their catalog to find it! I know you will too. Enjoy!

The 2016 Give Back Gift Guide

When I first started writing this blog (almost five years ago!) one of my main goals was to educate my friends and family on choices they were making with their purchases and how they could better stand up and support the things they love with their money. Christmas provides the perfect opportunity to do this- find gifts that give back to good causes, employ people that need someone to take a chance on them, or (at the very least) are sustainable and intentional.

Our purchases have power. Without getting too political, it’s obvious that we all have things we wish were getting more attention these days, whether its rights for a certain people group, money to fight a certain illness, or any number of other things. The beautiful thing is, there are great companies that are combining commerce with charity and making it possible- even at Christmastime- for great gifts to make a difference.

With that heart, I present to you the 2016 Give Back Gift Guide! For the most part, I let the companies speak for themselves. I hope you find a new company you love!

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Povertees
http://www.povertees.com/

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“We make all of our clothing in Los Angeles to employ as many people transitioning out of homelessness as we can. Over the years, we saw that people were returning to the streets because they could not find steady employment. In response, we offer supportive employment to women who are transitioning out of homelessness. We care for their well-being in and out of the workplace, and involve them in all aspects of the organization. Our employees do not simply work here, they belong here.
We look at clothing manufacturing and we see an opportunity to create systemic change. Businesses manufacture clothing overseas simply because it is cheaper to do so. Yet, a desire to strengthen domestic manufacturing and job creation is building. We will continue to be on the forefront of this change.
Businesses are not separate from the communities they operate in. We operate to show that community should not be separate from business.”

Good Grounds Coffee Co
https://www.goodgrounds.coffee/

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“Good Grounds is a for-profit company that partners with existing coffee cooperatives in East Africa by financing, marketing and exporting specialty coffee. Good Grounds brings change by working with widows and former Congolese rebels who have given up their guns to grow coffee. In our ever-globalizing world, we believe that farmer education and supply chain transparency are the keys to creating sustainable change and quality coffee, roast after roast.”  **This company is owned and operated by dear friends of ours in Rwanda and I can personally vouch for the great work they are doing!**

Madera Hammocks
https://maderaoutdoor.com/

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“For every hammock you buy two trees are planted. Hence the name Madera. We love giving back and since the nature of the business is…well, nature… we naturally owe all our efforts to the very thing that inspired us. We have partnered with Trees for the future to plant trees in remote parts of the world.”

Lovishly
https://lovishly.com/collections/lovishly

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“Lovishly Co. started in 2014 for the simple reason of giving back to the community that we live in. Lovishly believes each of us have the power to tell stories that change lives through fashion. When you wear our necklaces, our hope is that you will feel empowered to share the story it holds. How do we change the world? Lovishly believes in giving extravagantly. Throughout the year, we partner with many non-profits that are making a difference in their communities. We create a custom necklace for each organization and help spread the word of the work they are doing. During their campaign, $5 from every necklace sold goes towards their work. We believe that when you wear our necklaces you will want to share about the change that is going on in the world through that specific organization. Lovishly believes that together we can make a difference in the world. Fashion has become a way for us to express ourselves and the things we care about, so what better way to do that then purchasing one of our necklaces.”  ALL ITEMS ON SALE AND FREE GIFT WITH $100 PURCHASE AT TIME OF PUBLISHING.

Skyline Socks
http://skylinesocks.com/

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“We believe that where you’re from help shapes who you are, and what you have become. Nothing is more sacred than your hometown. With this in mind, we’ve cultivated a product that honors the very ground with which you stand on, literally…
If home is where the heart is, then our socks are the very foundation with which that great big heart of yours is grounded on. With this fundamental understanding the Skyline concept is passed on from individual, to community, to city, state, country, and beyond, a nation of Skyliners is born. Made from the highest quality materials, it is our mission to provide the world with the most comfortable, versatile, and visually impactful athletic crew sock on the market.” **These socks are super high quality, so soft AND their Maryland line speaks straight to my heart! Full disclosure: I did receive socks to review for this guide, all opinions are my own**

Carefull Candles
https://www.etsy.com/shop/CarefullCandles

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“Carefull Candles is the home of scented soy candles made with non-GMO soy wax, non-toxic fragrances and essential oils: carcinogen/phthalate-free/non-synthetic and handmade with love. These candles are chic with a rustic touch perfect for any space in your home or office. With every purchase, we donate $1 to the Hearts2Honduras foundation to help children in need. Our jars and metal lids can be recycled or repurposed because we love the planet ♥” **My friend, Caroline, makes each of these candles by hand and they are stellar! AWAKEN is my favorite scent** USE CODE “JOYFUL” FOR $15 OFF OF 50, “PEACE” FOR $25 OFF OF $100, “CHRISTMAS” FOR 20% OFF ANY ORDER THROUGH MONDAY, 11/28

Dear Survivor Leather & Jewelry
http://www.dear-survivor.com/

dearsurvivorfw16-18 “Dear Survivor is my (founder Christine Longoria) attempt to right the wrongs I’ve seen. It is the combination of all my skills, passions, and resources. As a new company, I’m starting small. Initially, 10% of every dollar will be donated to an established organization working with trafficking Survivors in California. As of July 27, 2015, Dear Survivor has an official partnership with GenerateHope, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping human trafficking survivors.” USE CODE”THANKS16″ FOR 20% OFF ENTIRE ORDER. FREE CLUSTER STUDS OVER $200 THROUGH  11/28

Cuttlefish Jewelry
http://www.cuttlefishjewelry.com/

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 “Cuttlefish Jewelry is a hand made jewelry company that is inspired by art and motivated by sustainability. Each piece is made from quality materials and features hand crafted ceramics all made in Los Angeles, California. Our goal is to create visual art that inspires creativity in others while bringing an awareness to sustainable living. All packaging currently used for Cuttlefish Jewelry is 100% recycled. This is the first step of many others we hope to take in creating an environmentally helpful company.”

Free and Crowned
https://freeandcrowned.com/

products-on-white2_0000_dsc08012_1024x1024 “Today, Free and Crowned exists with the promise that 25% of the proceeds from every headband sold will go to incredible organizations combating the human trafficking epidemic. These proceeds now work so that not only can these girls truly see their value, but that their chains might be broken and they be set FREE. Join us and take a stand against human trafficking by purchasing a Free and Crowned headband. This new “crown” you wear will not only go towards freeing the enslaved and helping them to experience their worth, but it will serve as a constant (and fashionable!) reminder to every girl around that they too can be a part of the solution.”

Sudara PunJammies
https://www.sudara.org

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“PUNJAMMIES® are loungepants made with hope by women in India who have escaped human trafficking. Whenever you purchase PUNJAMMIES®, you invest in the freedom and dignity of these women and girls who are working to forge a new life for themselves and their children.” USE CODE ‘Love16’ FOR 25% OFF, ACTIVE AT TIME OF PUBLISHING.

ReleaseSARA
https://releasesara.com/

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“ReleaseSARA uses 100% of the proceeds from every item sold to purchase essential oils for children and teens rescued from human sex trafficking. Essential oils assist these survivors in releasing emotions that can block healing. Rest assured that each purchase is a huge help, so grab something for yourself and a friend!”

Better Life Bags
https://betterlifebags.com/

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“In 2010, founder Rebecca and her family moved to a low income area of Detroit, Michigan and her eyes were opened to what povery, unemployment, and blight can do to a city and the people living there. When orders experienced a boom in 2012, she turned to her neighborhood for help. She hired a woman originally from Yemen, named Nadia, to start sewing bags alongside her. After a few months of spending time with Nadia and paying her for the work she was doing, Rebecca saw a shift in her attitude and economic status. Her family was finally able to afford bed frames for their four children and a dining room table. Better Life Bags was making lives better in Rebecca’s own community. Our mission is to hire women who have various barriers to employment to make our custom leather and fabric bags. They are adopted into our Better Life family and given a chance to succeed in life, family, and friendship. Even from the beginning, all of our bags have been custom and made-to-order for you – the customer!”

The Adopt Shoppe Jewelry and Totes
http://www.theadoptshoppe.com/

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“I started my shop to raise money to bring our son and daughter home. Now I try to use my shoppe to bless, uplift, and encourage women. It is also a way to help other adoptive families overcome the financial hurdles so that they can bring their children home. Made in India by women rescued from slavery, you will be honored to carry these adorable, fair-trade bags.” **This shop also makes incredible handmade jewelry but it’s nearly impossible to get, they sell out in seconds!**

Cuddle + Kind
https://www.cuddleandkind.com/

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“Helping children reach their potential resonates with us as parents. It motivated us to start cuddle+kind and inspires us everyday. It’s why we provide 10 meals for every doll we sell. Our goal is to provide one million meals a year. Through our partnership with World Food Program USA (WFP), we are feeding children nutritious meals in school and giving them the energy they need to learn. It’s one of the most effective ways of empowering children to break out of the poverty cycle they were born into. We think that’s not only important, but beautiful. We’ve also partnered with Children’s Hunger Fund to provide Food Paks – boxes of nutritious, non-perishable staple foods like rice, pasta, beans, canned vegetables and meat – to offer relief for families who suffer from food insecurity in North America and around the world. Through our partnership, we are providing vital nutrition and hope to children in need.” USE CODE “GIVETHANKS” FOR FREE SHIPPING, ACTIVE AT TIME OF PUBLISHING.

Harry’s Razors
https://www.harrys.com/products

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“We give 1% of Harry’s sales to City Year’s New York chapter. When we say “sales”, we’re talking about what accountants call “net revenue”. That means 1% of every purchase of Harry’s product, online or wholesale, goes to the organization. There is no cap to the amount of money we give to City Year.  All Harry’s employees volunteer 1% of their time at work with City Year and other organizations that get people ready. We focus on projects that use our team’s skills to grow our partners’ impact—from wireframing websites to creating pitch decks for potential donors.” **I use and love Harry’s products and I will never go back** 

Denik Notebooks
http://denik.com/

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“The Denik brand began with a few college guys at Utah State University, and has blossomed from a grassroots street team of book-slingers to a grassroots, artsy-ecletic bunch. Now slinging books to customers, corporations, and clients across the globe. We believe that the art of a high-schooler in Houston, or a professional artist in Brazil can be printed on one of our books and be used to impact generations. We gather artists from across the globe and put their work on journals, notebooks, and sketchbooks. Then, with every product sold, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to building schools and to support the artist.”

Sky and Arrow Blankets
http://www.skyandarrow.com/

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“Sky & Arrow was founded by Carly and Tyler. It started with a passion to raise up the next generation. We want to live by example & teach our children what compassion and kindness towards people in need looks like. With my love of handmade textiles and rad earthy vibes and Ty’s experience in growing businesses, we became an awesome husband & wife team. Everything we sell goes to a purpose of helping someone in need. We support other Non-Profits to help spread kindness all over the world. We are currently partnering up with Compassion Covers California. We are going to be apart of there next outreach taking place in San Francisco, LA, and San Diego. They have a goal of getting 2100 blankets – 700 to each city. This will help a lot of our friends on the streets this winter. We are so excited for this sweet partnership.
SPREADING KINDNESS, ONE BLANKET AT A TIME.”

Panda Eyewear and Watches
https://wearpanda.com/

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“You purchase a pair of Panda sunglasses, we count the number of pairs sold and donate monthly to our nonprofit partner, covering the cost of that same amount of prescription glasses and medical eye exams. The donation we make also helps cover the cost of building optometry schools and training men and women to become optometrists.
The funds also help train local eye care professionals and develop infrastructure such as vision centers to ensure a long-term solution.
Good vision enables children to learn, adults to work and the elderly to maintain their independence.”

ROMA Boots
https://romaboots.com/

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“Roma Boots merges fashion with philanthropy to give poverty the boot. Our mission is to bring impoverished children throughout the world hope, love, and lasting change through aid and education. For every pair of boots sold, a new pair is donated to a child in need. Additionally, ten percent of all proceeds funds educational initiatives around the world. Roma was founded in 2010 by Samuel Bistrian, who wanted to combine his love of fashion and philanthropy to help children in his home country of Romania. Roma’s ultimate goal is not only to provide aid, but to educate. By doing so we will empower them to contribute their gifts & talents to society, eradicate poverty as a condition and a state of mind to make this world a better place.”