11 Baby Items You Will Need The Most: Target’s Top Rated

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Trying to plan out your baby registry is fun and exciting. There are so many shiny, beautiful baby items and new gadgets to choose from. Every pregnancy magazine seems to boast of baby wear and accessories you absolutely need to have. So, the question is, what baby items do you actually need?

The truth of it all is, the baby industry is a big money maker; just like the wedding industry. Big brands are going to showcase their newest items in flashy ads that scream out to expectant parents, you need this now! But really, there’s a high possibility you don’t.

Daniel and I decided when we first moved in together that we want to make our best efforts to live minimalist lifestyles. We still have quite a few boxes in storage, but overall we ask ourselves before we make any purchase, do we really need this? With a tight budget, this has saved us a great deal of money. And SANITY. Because clutter just makes us insane.

When I found out I was pregnant, we were living in a tiny studio apartment. It was perfect for us, but it was not an ideal space for guests let alone roomy enough for a baby to be moving around. Luckily, we moved to a slightly more spacious apartment that accommodates our growing family. But even so, it is eye-opening when you realize how much space just a few baby items take up!

Society will make you think you need certain things for your family and baby that you really may never use. If you are on a tight budget and don’t have access to all these new expensive items, it can feel like a dagger to the heart that you cannot provide all these things to your new little one. I remember reading in a baby book not to fall for the hype! Only getting what you truly need will allow you to keep extra money in your bank account, and it will make your life at home less cluttered (which, believe me, will be less stressful when you have a crying newborn at home).

I have put together a list of the larger-scale baby items you actually need. These items are some of the best-rated at Target. Of course, make sure you have plenty of clothes and diapers, but those are the smaller details I will share in another post.

 

 

  1. Graco 4Ever Convertible Car Seat. A car seat will need to be installed before you head to the hospital to deliver your baby. This one grows with your child so you can use it for years to come!
  2. GO by Goldbug Clouds Duo Car Seat Head Support. This is something my husband and I wished we had known we needed for our baby’s car seat. Luckily, Bethie’s neck is fine. But if your car seat does not provide proper head support, this is important to keep babies head and neck stable.
  3. Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play. This was a life saver for Daniel and I! Bethie only wanted to sleep in our arms, but we were able to rock her to sleep in this Rock ‘n Play (and these sleep-deprived parents were able to get some shut-eye ourselves).
  4. Aden® by Aden + Anais® Muslin Swaddles. The material is breathable, and they feel like a hug around your little babe. Plus, they are so versatile–you can use them as a cover-up while nursing and a burp cloth as well.
  5. Gerber Onesies. You will not have enough onesies! These short sleeved onesies are great for the hot days we spent with Bethie when we brought her home from the hospital in the July heat. Long-sleeved onesies are ideal for colder climates.
  6. Modela Breast Pump & Accessories. I did not have this breast pump, but everyone I have spoken to swears by this one! All of the accessories may seem excessive, but the bottles and bag that come in this kit are perfect for travel.
  7. Burt’s Bees Baby® Beekeeper™ Wearable Blanket Organic Cotton. Now that studies find blankets or anything in the crib with baby may be linked to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), a wearable blanket or swaddle is your best option to keep baby warm and snug.
  8. Child Craft Abbott™ Dressing Table. You can change the baby on a blanket on the floor or bed. But a changing table will ease you of the back ache of constantly bending over! Something you will want to avoid after recently giving birth to a small human.
  9. Dapple 2x Baby Laundry Detergent, Fragrance Free. I love this one because it is environmentally friendly and doesn’t contain all the nasty chemicals found in other detergents. Plus, fragrance free is perfect for baby’s sensitive skin.
  10. Arm’s Reach Ideal Ezee™ 3-in-1 Co-Sleeper® Bassinet. This bassinet is wonderful because baby can sleep next to you without the risk of suffocation (co-sleeping with baby in bed greatly increases possibility of SIDS). All those night time feedings will be so much easier with baby by your side.
  11. Tommee Tippee Closer To Nature All in One Newborn Starter Set. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you may be able to avoid needing bottles right away. I especially love that these ones are BPA-free. But you should have some on hand either way. There’s nothing worse than a screaming hungry baby and no back up plan if breast milk production is low.

 

OTHER IMPORTANT ITEMS

  • Fisher-Price Deluxe Take-Along Swing and Seat. This is a baby item that is not necessary, but there were times Daniel and I wished we had it for those especially gassy, fussy, restless baby days. A baby swing may help you catch a nap and give your tired arms a rest.

What were some baby items you absolutely could not live without?

5 Ways To Enjoy Your Valentine’s Day if You Are Single

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Another Valentine’s Day is approaching, and I have a confession: some of my BEST Valentine’s Days were spent as a single woman. No, this is not a post to bash my husband for unromantic Valentine’s Days spent. Honestly, I have never understood what all the hype is about. Maybe it’s because I feel like every couple–married, with kids, or not–should share at least several days within each month that feel like Valentine’s Day; exciting, sexy, and full of a little adventure. You know, the spice of life. Days spent gallivanting through a new town. Going on a road trip to God-knows-where. Eating out at a cool new pub that just opened up in town. Going on a roller coaster together at Six Flags, holding on for dear life, and screaming until you both are too hoarse to talk the rest of the night.

But what if you are not in a relationship?

So, you are single. Maybe you are feeling a little anxious that V-Day is approaching, and you are flying solo this year. Or, if you’re the more content type, maybe you are cool with where life takes you. Either way, remember that life is too short to have bad vibes! Focus on being the best you that you can be, and the rest will fall into place.

Sure, you may not be in the most desirable situation in your life, but there are many other things you can look forward to without having a relationship to tie you down. Travel places you’ve never traveled before. Learn a new skill. Take a college course in something random you have always wanted to learn, like photography or calligraphy. And don’t, for one minute, allow your single hood to get you down on Valentine’s Day.

Let’s rewind almost 10 years…

I’ll never forget it. My best friend and I had just experienced terrible breakups. Her ex-boyfriend had gone off to college somewhere in the Midwest, and I had gotten out of an unhealthy two year on-again/off-again relationship with a boy I was crazy about. I was on my way to her new college apartment after conveniently running into my “charming” ex.

I had made a pit-stop at the local store a couple towns over from mine to pick my friend up some cheesy Valentine’s Day gifts. I thought some gifts would cheer her up, so I found a best friend card, a giant Valentine’s Day chocolate bar shaped like a sexy man, and some snacks for our girls’ Valentine’s Day extravaganza. (Or whatever our sad little heartbroken selves could make of it). It was at checkout that I heard a familiar voice call my name. My heart sank like the Titanic. Yup, it was my ex. Staring at me as I stood at checkout. And he followed me all the way out to my car, until I drove away never to see his sorry face again.

Boy, the drive on my way to my friend’s new place was a tough one. I already felt sad and upset about the breakup with my ex, but actually seeing him at the store was just what I needed *sarcastic eye roll*. And it was one of my first experiences driving alone to the Jersey shore, and I was unfamiliar with true dirty Jersey driving, as they call it. Ever witness a bright yellow Ferrari dangerously swerving around you like a bolt of lighting at 120 miles an hour? Welcome to New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. I think I had a few panic attacks on the way.

No, I decided, I am not going to let this ruin an awesome day. I blasted Paramore on the stereo of my little white Subaru all the way down the Garden State Parkway, singing my heart out like a crazy person until I got lost and finally reached my friend’s apartment almost an hour late.

She and I made the best of our unromantic Valentine’s Day. We ate pizza, watched chick flicks, laughed, cried, scared ourselves to death watching a horror flick, and we stuffed our faces with junk food until we were both sick. Still to this day, I can’t forget how we turned our crap situations into something pathetically awesome.

What you can do to make your Valentine’s Day a memorable one.

1. Set Up a You Date. Really, set up the perfect night for yourself. Maybe start the day at your favorite coffee shop, reading your favorite book. I love Barnes and Noble for the sole fact that I can hit up the Starbucks and read a book or magazine while enjoying my latte. Pick up your favorite takeout and snacks to enjoy while you watch your favorite romantic comedies. Divulge in some at-home spa treatments, and look through a new magazine while soaking in the tub. Whatever scenario sounds like your ultimate day, make a mental outline of it, and make it happen!

2. Spend It With a Friend. Okay, so maybe this doesn’t count as solo, but my most memorable Valentine’s Day was spent with my best friend. She and I could have been in the depths of despair after experiencing pathetic and heart-wrenching breakups. Actually, I think she still was feeling pretty horrible that day thinking about her ex boyfriend.  But I truly had the best time laughing with her, eating junk food and watching corny romantic comedies.

3. Redecorate. Have you been holding off on redecorating your apartment? Well, babe, assuming a little apartment makeover is in your budget, head on out to Target, and make it happen. Gather together some ideas of what look you hope to achieve, and create a cozy new home space you can retreat to. Or order a few cute furniture pieces from home during a sweet Netflix binge.

AND HEY, you lovelies! I am partnering with Target to offer you up to 30% off home items by clicking this link: http://www.seasaltlavender.com/targethome

PLUS, you will receive an extra 15% off rugs with promo code GEORGE. Valid 2/11-2/17

4. Deep Clean & Get It All Out. Brew a pot of coffee, blast your favorite energizing music playlist, and clear out the clutter in your life. Spend the day clearing out items in your apartment you no longer need. Donate clothes that have been collecting dust in your closet. Figure out a system to organize important documents, shoes and food staples in your pantry so you can find them more easily. De-cluttering your life and clearing out all the junk can be emotionally therapeutic, and it will make your space so much more inviting.

5. Spread the Love. So, maybe you don’t have a significant other to love, and it feels freakin annoying. Well, this is the holiday of love, so share the love with someone else who needs it. Maybe your mom is sitting at home in the same boat. Surprise her with a gift basket and spend an evening with your mama over cocktails and dinner. Or, say your Grandma would love to meet up for a lunch date. There people all around who are lacking in the love department, so why wallow in your sorrow when you can be enjoying an uplifting day with someone else.

What will you be doing this Valentine’s Day?

DIY Hydrating Raw Cacao & Honey Face Mask Recipe

Keeping some sort of skincare regimen is something I have made a priority in my twenties. I’ve experienced my fair share of breakouts and skin imperfections, especially with the stress of trying to balance relationships with busy work and college schedules over the years. And I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve experienced allergic reactions to new products, which resulted in redness, rashes and itchy hives. FRUSTRATING. You’d think I would have learned over the years, but–what can I say–I love trying new products.

The routine of taking care of my skin is something I enjoy. Well, up until Beth was born. Around the holidays, I started getting back into the groove of washing my face and using any facial moisturizer on hand; let’s just say, my skin has seen better days. Lack of sleep, skin neglect, dehydration from the winter weather and breastfeeding…If you’re also a mom, maybe you can relate. Dry skin patches, redness and those fine lines that creep up out of nowhere might surprise you one day upon glancing at your reflection in the mirror.


 

There are many new and innovative lab-tested, “scientifically-proven” skincare formulas that claim to hydrate, tone and firm the skin. While I am sure a great deal of these products work at keeping skin youthful looking and well-hydrated, most ingredients on the labels of these products are hard to pronounce. Many of these ingredients are also not safe for use over long periods of time because they are not meant to be slathered all over our bodies, and they may be linked to health problems, chronic illnesses, and even cancer.

This chocolate and honey face mask is hydrating and detoxifying, uses real ingredients you can pronounce, and it seriously smells good enough to eat. And the best part? These delicious ingredients have AMAZING benefits for the skin. Just something else chocolaty and sweet for you to indulge in this Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate & Honey Mask Benefits

Cacao increases skin circulation with natural caffeine, reduces redness, and minerals like magnesium, selenium, zinc and copper. Together, these minerals work together to repair damage to the skin and prevent future damage.

Organic plain grass-fed yogurt is ideal for this mask and for overall consumption. Grass-fed yogurt contains 62% more Omega 3 and 5 times more linoleic acid, which both fight damage from free radicals and fight skin inflammation.

Vitamin E contains powerful antioxidant properties that help fight off aging by blocking wrinkle-causing free radicals.

Raw Honey balances skin pH and is antibacterial, which makes it great for blemished and acne-prone skin. Honey is also extremely moisturizing, soothing to the skin, and it combats signs of aging by toning the skin and improving firmness.

Banana contains skin-loving vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, B6 and C, selenium, iron and many others.

 

 

This recipe makes enough for two face masks. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

Do you have any homemade skincare favorites?

Skin Food: Coconut & Rose Body Whip Recipe


This winter weather can deplete us of moisture and energy. How many of you feel dull around this time of year? I, like many others I know, have to work harder to stay motivated during the winter. I also have to make every effort to avoid SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The darkness may be coming a little later in the day than the beginning of the season, but what is missed most here in the Northeast is the sun’s warmth. Also missed? The evidence of any signs life around us, because mostly every form of plant life outside–flowers, leaves and any sign of greenery–is frozen, buried under great big piles of snow, or dead.

Up until more recently in my life, I was not a fan of anything rose-scented. Maybe this is because I am approaching my thirties, and the younger more girlish me was drawn to youthful, sweet scents (think Pink Sugar, citrus, and warm vanilla). Now, I’m actually branching out and digging more delicate floral scents like rose, lilac, chamomile and lavender.

In my mid-twenties, I learned more about the benefits of rose. And there are so many. Rose is uplifting and stimulating to the mind. Its aroma is a nice pick-me-up during this cold, snowy season. Rose essential oil was actually used by our ancestors for its healing, anti-depressant properties, among its many other benefits. Rose is rich in antioxidants, which makes this oil renewing and rejuvenating to damaged and aging skin; it also contains potent antimicrobial, antibiotic, and antiseptic properties.


Rose is valued around Valentine’s Day not only for its beauty as a flower or its delicate petals and sensual scent but also for its powerful abilities to alleviate sexual dysfunction caused by anxiety and stress. Yes, in other words, rose is an aphrodisiac. According to a study that was published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, rose oil improves “sexual dysfunction in male patients suffering from both MDD and SSRI-I SD. Further, the symptoms of depression reduced as sexual dysfunction improved!” 

If you’re hoping to reduce some stress and lift a dull mood, why not use rose to help bring you back to life? Give your partner a relaxing and healing massage with this homemade rose massage oil: simply add a couple drops of rose essential oil to a carrier oil like jojoba or almond.

Add a couple drops each of rose essential oil, ylang-ylang, sandlewood and jasmine to a diffuser to increase some good evening vibes with your spouse.

You can also enjoy the skin and aromatherapy benefits of rose with a rich hydrating body cream, like my favorite DIY body whip (below).

 

As with any products, do a patch test on your skin first and check for signs of allergy. If rash appears, discontinue use.

Store body whip in a cool, dry place as it may liquefy in hot environments. You can also use a different essential oil in place of rose, if desired. Here are some of my favorite essential oils.

Valentine’s Day: Chocolate Body Scrub Recipe


There’s nothing quite like allowing ourselves to enjoy self care moments from time to time. Maybe it’s a soak in the bathtub with a glass of wine after a long day of work. Reading a good book before bed. Binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix and eating an entire bowl of popcorn. (I don’t know if that exactly counts as self-care, but it can definitely save your sanity.) Lately, I’ve been a huge fan of making myself a big fresh margarita and painting my nails once a week after Bethie falls asleep. Crazy how something so simple can be the perfect ending to a long week.

I don’t really do much around Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been a fan of the commercial aspect of the holiday. Feeling pressured into going out and buying tacky presents or staring into my lover’s eyes over a candlelit dinner in a busy restaurant has never really been my thing. In fact, I can only recall one or two times in my entire life that I truly got caught up in the Valentine’s Day spirit. I think one of those times involves spending Valentine’s Day with my best friend just after she and I experienced bad breakups. We spent a day eating junk food, laughing, and watching movies, and that is a funny story for a different day.

This Valentine’s Day, I have decided I’m going shake things up a bit and go all out. And by that, I don’t I mean I will be treating myself to a huge shopping spree or anything, because my wallet will not allow it. Plus, my family and I are saving up for an exciting trip we have planned for the end of the summer, so I’d rather spend the money on family memories that will last a lifetime. I love spa treatments, but my schedule would not allow me to spend hours at the spa. So instead, I will be at home celebrating the entire Valentine’s week with my own at-home spa treatments. Because this mama needs some serious sprucing up after months of neglect.


 

After the baby was born, I barely washed my face for the first two weeks. SERIOUSLY. My skin was so dry, and frankly I did not care. Recovering from childbirth is tough. At least it was for me. I felt like I had run a marathon. Now that I’m back to myself after a difficult recovery, I’ve been having fun at home during my downtime. I find myself writing, trying new recipes and creating whenever time allows it. Sure, I barely sleep because I am up most hours of the night, but this is when the night owl in me is most creative.

I love making homemade body treatments, so I’m looking forward to a week of chocolate (because I can’t get enough), maybe some glasses of wine, and a lot of self care.

I’m excited to share some DIY Valentine’s Day inspired body care recipes with you within the next few days. This chocolate body scrub smells so divine without the sugar rush (or extra calories), and it is so moisturizing. Follow with your favorite body lotion, and you will be ready for that hot date night out or movie night in. And if you’re spending Valentine’s Day with your best friend, why not make an extra batch to give as a gift?

As with any products, do a patch test on your skin first and check for signs of allergy. If rash appears, discontinue use.

 

How to Create Your Own Body Scrub


Ever since my days of working at a spa, using a body scrub to exfoliate my skin has been a simple at-home beauty ritual I enjoy. I worked for seven years with my family at a spa that carried natural beauty products and provided services like facials, massages, body wraps and body treatments. There I became fascinated with natural skincare and holistic health and beauty rituals.

My skin is sensitive, and I prefer using sugar scrubs rather than salt to slough away dry, flaky skin. Sugar may not be healthy for your body internally, but using it in an exfoliating body scrub is a sweet way to restore skin health while retaining your skin’s healthy pH.

Why Is Sugar Good For Skin?

Sugar contains alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), a natural source of glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is especially great to use on aging skin or skin showing signs of sun damage. This year is the last year of my twenties *gasp*, so I’m taking every measure to find natural ways to age gracefully. Using a scrub weekly is an excellent way to reveal the young healthy, glowing skin underneath dull, flaky skin.

Sugar scrubs can be especially beneficial for skin health because sugar is powerful enough to penetrate the skin cells; it creates a fresh, young and healthy glow by safely accelerating skin cell turnover. Sugar tends to be more hydrating to the skin than salt because it is a natural humectant, meaning it draws moisture into skin. Generally, sugar granules are also gentler on skin than salt. Salt can actually damage the skin by creating microscopic tears.

Why Exfoliate Now?

Exfoliating in the winter enables moisturizers to penetrating more deeply into the skin. It also might be the solution to getting rid of those itchy dry skin patches you can’t stop scratching underneath your favorite warm sweater. This is because sugar exfoliates the very top layer of skin, which allows moisturizers to hydrate your skin longer.

When Creating Your Sugar Scrub:

Decide whether you want to exfoliate just your body or your face as well. Brown sugar is gentler on the skin than cane sugar, so it is better to use as a face scrub. If your face is extremely sensitive or you are experiencing acne, you may want to avoid using sugar to exfoliate altogether as it may be too abrasive. There are other options that may be better for the sensitive skin on your face, like a gentle exfoliating mask.

Start With Your Scrub Base:

Salt (Sea Salt or Epsom Salt) – As I have already mentioned, salt can be very abrasive. So, definitely avoid using salt on your skin if your skin is dry and sensitive. A salt scrub is best only when used on oily skin or for areas you really want to exfoliate such as rough, calloused feet. If you choose to use salt in your body scrub, I would suggest avoiding using it on your face. Also, you could make the scrub with half sea salt and half sugar to cut down the abrasiveness of the salt.

  • Sea Salt – Fine sea salt flakes can be less skin damaging and abrasive than coarse salt or regular table salt. But a salt scrub is still best if used for only rough parts of body, like elbows, knees and feet. Sea Salt contains natural minerals and healing properties that can benefit skin and body health. It is important to use gentle pressure when applying to avoid damaging skin.
  • Epsom Salt – Epsom salt contains magnesium, an essential mineral many of us are lacking, that is needed for healthy joint and muscle function. Magnesium also allows the muscles to heal from a long day, and it calms the body and mind. Magnesium can be absorbed through the skin and enter the body’s blood stream when applied to skin topically in a lotion or body scrub. This is why Epsom salt is an excellent choice when using in a foot scrub.

Brown Sugar – Brown sugar is softer than other sugars. Because its granules are smaller, brown sugar is more safe and gentle to use on sensitive skin or face. It conditions and hydrates skin while keeping skin guarded from toxins. The glycolic acid in brown sugar fights bacteria and breaks down signs of aging and skin damage by penetrating glue-bonded cells.

Turbinado Sugar – Raw sugar or turbinado sugar is course, large crystal sugar. It polishes away dead skin cells while moisturizing with natural glycolic acid. Raw sugar is coarser than brown sugar, so you can use brown sugar instead if you have skin irritations or sensitivities.

 

Add Oil of Choice:

Choose the best oil for your skin type. My skin is super dry in the winter, so I like using an extra moisturizing oil. Virgin coconut oil is my favorite because it leaves a protective coating on my skin. I like that I don’t have to apply a thick layer of lotion when stepping out of the shower after I use a coconut sugar scrub (and as a mom, every little thing I can do to save time is helpful).

Rose hip is another oil I LOVE to use, as it is nurturing to skin and contains amazing antioxidants. I also love almond oil, which is a lighter choice but still very nourishing.

Hazelnut OilBest for oily, acne-prone skin. Hazelnut oil is anti-bacterial and helps prevent skin’s over-production of oil because of its astringent properties. This oil absorbs quickly into skin without leaving a residue. Of course, completely avoid hazelnut oil if you have nut allergies.

Jojoba OilBest for oily, acne-prone or sensitive skin. This Vitamin E-rich oil is actually not an oil but a liquid wax. Jojoba plays the role of natural skin sebum, and it heals skin while keeping oil levels balanced. Jojoba also contains antioxidants that may slow down signs of aging and naturally soothe wrinkles.


Sunflower Oil –  Best for dry, inflamed skin. This light oil quickly absorbs into skin and is packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fatty acids that regenerate skin cells for a radiant glow.

Almond Oil Best for dry, sensitive skin. This nourishing oil is rich in vitamins A and D. It is one of the gentlest oils, which makes it perfect for sensitive skin. Almond oil is easily absorbed into the skin and has a light texture.

RosehipBest for dry, mature, aging and sensitive skin. This rich body oil is chock full of good-for-your-skin vitamins and minerals. Seriously, if I could, I would bathe in this stuff.  It may be slightly thicker and more expensive than almond oil. It is also slightly more moisturizing than almond (in my opinion), but Rosehip is usually similar to almond oil in consistency. Rosehip oil is used in many expensive anti-aging luxury brands, as is the next oil—evening primrose. Both are noted for their overall incredible skin benefits.

Evening Primrose OilBest for dry, mature, aging skin and skin conditions. Evening primrose oil contains a high dose of essential fatty acids, as well as gamma-linolenic acid which makes it excellent for use of those with eczema.

Virgin Coconut OilBest for dry, sensitive skin and skin conditions. Coconut oil becomes a solid at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can microwave it for a few seconds before adding to your homemade body scrub. Coconut oil has a low molecular weight which allows it to bond with proteins as it penetrates deeper layers of skin than average moisturizers. Skin stays soft, smooth and glowing with the help of coconut oil’s saturated fats. Anti-inflammatory properties in coconut oil also may alleviate skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema.

 

Add-Ins:

You can add a dash of vitamin E oil, honey or spice (like ground cinnamon or ginger) to boost skin benefits of your sugar scrub.

Vitamin E – Contains antioxidant properties that protect against skin cancer and may slow down signs of aging. Vitamin E can also prolong the shelf-life of your sugar scrub and prevent essential oils in your scrub from going rancid.

Honey – Naturally moisturizing, honey is also antibacterial and adds a richness to your sugar scrub.

Cinnamon – This Stimulating spice helps fight skin dryness by restoring skin suppleness and shine. It also helps exfoliate dead skin cells.

Ginger – Ginger stimulates circulation which can help reduce cellulite, detoxify and even out skin tone.

 

Add Scent of Choice (Optional):

Fragrance oils/artifical scents found in most drugstore and specialty products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that can negatively impact your health, especially if you are sensitive to artificial fragrances to begin with.

I prefer to use organic botanical essences and essential oils to scent my skincare because they can provide added health benefits rather than disrupt health. To read my list of favorite essential oils, click here.

When making a brown sugar scrub, I suggest using warm scents like vanilla, cinnamon, or citrus (lemon and orange), as the rich brown sugar scent can overpower floral-smelling essential oils.

 

How to Make Your Scrub:

It’s so quick and easy! To make your body scrub:

1. combine 1-2 cups sugar, salt or equal parts of each into a large bowl. Mix in your oil of choice until mixture reaches consistency of choice.

2. Add in a few drops of essential oil and a dash of Vitamin E, honey, cinnamon, ginger, or cinnamon.

3. Mix well, and store in an airtight container. *To keep for longer use, avoid allowing water in as your scrub will spoil at a faster rate.

Avoid using in sensitive areas. Apply body scrub in circular motions and rinse off thoroughly with warm water.

 

I really love to be creative making body scrubs by improvising with different oils, scents, and unexpected ingredient add-ins. Stay tuned for some of my favorite DIY skin softening recipes!

 

Helloooo smooth skin!

How To Prepare For Labor and Delivery


Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting experiences of a woman’s life, hands down. It can also be overwhelming. Like, how am I going to be able to handle all of this, overwhelming. Will I be able to handle all of this? Why is everything making me cry? Or how about, why am I getting pissed at every single little thing someone else says or does? Hormones are in overdrive. Cravings may be intense. Weight gain may be seem never-ending. Heck, near the end of my pregnancy, I did not recognize myself. At all. I may have seemed cool and collected most of the time, but I was a fuse ready to blow. And my physique? I could not imagine that I would ever be a size 4 again. I’ve always been a curvy-ish girl, but my curves (and growing baby bump) were busting more and more out the seams every waking day. No matter how much I worked out, I felt my body blowing up like a balloon, until–pop!

All of the mixed emotions and physical changes you endure over a period of–more or less–9 months as your body is growing a precious life can turn you into a ball of tears by the time you reach third trimester. You may find yourself surrounded by overly-excited and even frantic friends and family members. You may receive more attention than you ever have in your life. Even your wedding day. People will tell you how to raise your child before reality fully sets in; most likely, before you even give birth to that little bundle. And with social media being a huge part of modern society, do not be surprised if people tell you what you are doing wrong and why, and what you need to do instead when you post what you think is a simple, sweet pic of you and your baby bonding on one of your first days out of the house together. Ok, that was a super long run-on sentence, but hopefully you get it!

Anticipating birth can be unpredictable and daunting, especially if you do not have a scheduled c-section. Even then, the days leading up to the big day may seem more and more unsettling as you grow closer to your baby’s due date.

As a “natural Mama” I made every effort to be healthy throughout my pregnancy. It gave me peace of mind at the end of the night knowing that women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. I meditated daily on prayer and trusting my body to nourish and protect the life growing in my womb. Yes, I indulged some days. BIG TIME. My cravings were through the roof. Chocolate. Steak. Pickles. Hot Sauce. Pickles AND hot sauce. By the looks of it, I thought for sure I would be pregnant with twins, and people in public were not afraid to ask me if I was expecting multiples. That’s right, strangers you have never once met before will ask you the darnedest things.


Most women gain up to five pounds in the first trimester (normally less if they are battling extreme morning sickness). Well, I gained about 14 pounds–regardless of my every effort to exercise daily, eat a healthy, balanced diet and limit my exposure to stressful situations. I was fortunate enough avoid vomiting during my first trimester. BUT, in order to alleviate my nausea, I had to eat. I actually felt ashamed when I found out there was definitely only one baby occupying my uterus.

While I am certainly no doctor or pregnancy expert, I can share the little things that greatly impacted the outcome of my pregnancy as a whole. Please remember that your birth experience may not end up the way you had envisioned, and that is OKAY. I have many friends who longed for natural births that ended in c-sections, and vice versa. I wanted a full water birth, but I was only allowed to labor in the water due to the hospital’s policies. What matters most is that you and baby are safe and healthy when it is all said and done.

*Please consult your physician before trying any of the following suggestions if you have been experiencing pregnancy complications or health problems.

1.Find Your Happy Place.

Do something that brings you peace. Pray. Journal. Write letters to the little one you have yet to meet. Take a walk on the beach. Meditate in a clean, open space. Take a warm bath (warm, but not too hot a temperature). Read a book or some words of inspiration.

I know, the concept of becoming a mother can be very intimidating. Leading up to the big day, you may envision yourself in the scariest of situations. But, you will get through it. Stress does no one any good, especially a mother and her developing baby. It is not worth your time or energy to worry! I repeat, do your best not to worry. Just take each moment to remind yourself that women have been doing this since the beginning of time. Trust your body, take care of it, and have faith that every day leading up to delivery day will be worth the wait once that little child is finally in your arms.

 

2.Exercise.

Exercising from the beginning will actually help you in the end, during labor and the birth recovery process. Your muscles will be strengthened and flexible (which will especially help if you are having a natural birth). There is a good chance you may experience a quicker recovery.

I made great efforts to work out for 30-60 minutes each night, starting with some light stretching, then calisthenics and ending with modified pregnancy-safe yoga. When the weather became warmer, Dan and I enjoyed hikes outside. I truly believe my frequent work outs made all the difference when it came time to my uncomplicated delivery and bouncing back after baby.

Exercising during pregnancy was such a challenge for me. I wanted to throw in the towel almost every time. But I decided there was no way in hell I was giving up, because I knew the benefits for my baby and I were too many to count. There was not a day that went by that I exercised with ease. Don’t get compare yourself to those Insta moms who make working out look and feel like a breeze. From day one, I was exhausted, out of breath and nauseous. By the end, the baby put so much pressure on my lungs and organs that it was difficult to walk through the supermarket!

 

3.Make Dates For Yourself.

These are your last moments as a childless woman! Take in these precious moments. Inhale every sweet breath you have to yourself. Enjoy every last second of silence. Because the next 18 plus years your life will be loud, crazy and constantly flying by. Go out with your girlfriends. Enjoy a nice dinner with your significant other.

I have been a mother for 6 months, and I am finally accepting the fact that I may never experience those peaceful moments again. Not until her nap time, if I am lucky, when I desperately need to take a nap as well. Or nighttime, when my baby finally falls sleep.

I distinctly remember during my last week of pregnancy: I walked into the nearby Barnes and Noble to enjoy some alone time with my once-a-week coffee and a book. I felt like the baby was going to fall out of me as I waddled through those automatic doors at the entrance. Others gave me concerned glances in passing. It looked as though some of them wondered, is she going to have the baby today–like, here in this store?  I can’t deny, I had to push away mental images of myself screaming bloody murder, delivering the baby on the floor near the customer service desk. I could just imagine a ring of people surrounding me, cheering me on while I lay on the floor with legs open wide, enduring the most agonizing, terrifying situation of my life. Luckily, my labor did not at all turn out that way. And most likely, yours will not either.

Although it was terrifying going solo during that last week of pregnancy, I would not trade it for the world! I savored those last cups of coffee. I browsed the aisles of Target without yet having to worry about carting a baby around. I enjoyed a delicious lunch in silence at the local cafe, and I am so grateful I did. Because–as beautiful and blessed an experience it is to become a mother–it immediately turned my life upside down.

 

4.Eat a Well-Balanced Diet.

I know, I know, it’s freakin hard. People will tell you “you’re pregnant, so eat whatever the heck you want”. Or, “it’s ok, you’re eating for two”. Sure, it’s fine to indulge sometimes. But eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will ensure that you and your growing baby are getting the nutrients you need to be strong and healthy come D-Day. Plus, too much sugar can lead you into scary pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

Although I steered away from processed sugars, my downfall was eating too much fruit. I did not learn this until the doctor warned me that eating too much fruit can be dangerous to a pregnant woman. This saddened me, as one of my favorite everyday treats was a fruit smoothie. I thought I was in the safe zone avoiding processed sugars in baked goods, ice cream and candies. Turns out, fruit can be dangerous to a pregnant woman as well. I failed my first glucose test and had to take the second one. NOT fun, ya’ll. That second glucose test is three hours long, and for me it was like three hours from hell. I almost threw up immediately after drinking the glucose drink, and spent most of the time struggling to keep it down. I don’t know if I passed that second glucose test out of sheer luck or because I had fought my banana cravings and cut most sugars, including fruit, out of my diet. But I was so relieved to learn I passed it.

 

5.Have Easy Meals At Hand.

Stock up the freezer with freezer meals. Have a big batch of soup ready. DO NOT be afraid to accept your mother-in-law’s offer to make you a giant lasagna. You will need something so quick and so easy to make, because–girl–you are going to be OUT OF IT.

My first week with the baby is honestly a blur to me. I don’t know how I made it. I don’t remember it. My husband was scared to leave me home alone while he went to work. At the time, I said “no, no, I’ll be fine” to him. But looking back, I honestly don’t remember that week. I made it through. And thank the Lord I had easy meals on hand because I was hungry as a mofo.

I also found  many easy Crock Pot meals on Pinterest if you are trying to figure out other meal suggestions.

 

Ultimately, just remember you got this, Mama. Write down your favorite inspirational quotes. Write it on your hand. Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are a rockstar, and you will bring your sweet baby into this world however it needs to get done.

What are some things that prepared you for your labor and delivery experience? Let me know by email at Seasaltandlavender@yahoo.com.

Four Natural Ways To Reduce Body Pain


Living with chronic pain is something I am very familiar with. Experiencing body pain day in and day out can be very taxing, both mentally and emotionally. There is a growing number of people who also experience body pain every day. Stress, vitamin deficiency, and lack of adequate sleep can be the most common causes of frequent body aches and pains. Fibromyalgia is another growing cause of body pain. If you are unfamiliar with this unpleasant “mystery” illness, fibromyalgia affects a growing number of people each year. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include extreme fatigue, sensitivity and pain of the entire body. Sometimes, a more serious health condition could be to blame for frequent body pain. Arthritis, Lyme disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS) are just a few of the more serious agonizing conditions that can physically break down the muscles and joints over time if left untreated.

Get to the Root.

If you are someone experiencing frequent body pain, it is important to first figure out the root of the problem. Seek the help of a physician who will test you for potential illnesses. Some individuals prefer to visit a holistic doctor to avoid taking prescription medications that may lead to more serious problems or unpleasant side effects. If, like in my case, your physician is unable to make a diagnosis through testing, do not be afraid to get a second or third opinion. That way you can be sure to receive proper treatment, if necessary. It is not to say that we should live every day in constant fear or worry, but carelessness about our health is not wise either. We only have one life to live, and our health is not something to take lightly.

There are some illnesses that may lead to more serious problems if left untreated. Lyme disease is just one example. There are many others, but I am using Lyme as an example because it is an illness I have experienced all too well.  Lyme disease, an illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi through a tick bite, can cause a host of problems later in life if left untreated; some of these problems include: facial paralysis, arthritis, joint and neuromuscular conditions. So, I will mention it again, before you seek treatment for your pain, it is important to first figure out what is causing it.

Join a Support Group.

So now, you have figured out the possible cause of your pain. Or maybe you are still left wondering what is wrong because the doctors have no explanation? I did not know what was wrong with me for many years. I dealt with other alarming symptoms, such as random dizzy spells, blacking out, gastrointestinal problems and terrible insomnia. I was tested for Crohn’s disease, lupus, and even cancer. But the pain alone was enough to make me feel sad and hopeless some days. When I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease after years of struggling just to get through each day, it was a relief to finally know what was wrong with me. But I also felt lonely in my illness, as I did not have many friends who were held back from daily life at such a young age due to a chronic illness.

Joining a support group is one of the most recent things I have done that I wish I’d done way sooner! I stumbled across a Lyme disease support group on Facebook one day. I am not a super active member of the group, aside from making random comments from time to time, but just reading what other people are experiencing has made me feel so much less foolish about my thoughts and emotions through this challenging journey. And so much less ALONE in what I have been feeling. As someone who began experiencing constant body pain more than half my lifetime ago, finally being a member of a community of people who share similar experiences is refreshing. It can build you up by realizing you are NOT alone in your unique situation, and by understanding you can rise above the illness in order to live life to the fullest.

Here are some natural lifestyle changes that have helped me naturally reduce my body pain:

1) Get Moving.

I’ll admit that when I’m in pain, sometimes the LAST thing I want to do is get up and walk around. It is hard to find the motivation to get moving when you are tired and achy. But moving and exercising does more than help your muscles.

Sometimes all you need to lift your mood and ease some of your body pain is a daily 15 minute walk outside in the fresh air and sunshine; or walking around the mall on a gloomy day can do wonders to help your mind and body.  Other beneficial forms of exercise include stretching–such as yoga, strengthening exercises like squats or wall pushups, or other cardiovascular exercises besides walking (swimming, riding a bike, or using an elliptical trainer). Remember not to overexert yourself, as doing so may lead to injury. The key is to get your blood flowing and your body moving, which will help raise your body’s natural seratonin levels and release those feel-good endorphins.

Exercise may not be a possibility for those who suffer from truly debilitating illnesses, so please consult with your physician if you any have any concerns. There are plenty of other natural treatment strategies you can take to cope with frequent body pain.

2) Eat More Plants.

No, I’m not trying to convince you to go completely vegan. Some may argue that a vegan lifestyle is best for health and the planet, and I agree in some respects. With some exceptions. For one, processed foods do not promote good health. This is why I avoid foods that are sometimes deemed as “healthy foods” by the natural community, like tofu. Sugar, processed or raw, is also a big no-no if you want to decrease body pain. Processed foods and sugar cause acidity in the body once they are digested, which in turn, magnifies body pain. Whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes (like beans and peas), on the other hand, reduce body pain because they cause the body to be more alkaline. To figure out other foods that are alkaline in the body once consumed, you can simply Google “food alkalinity chart”, and find one easily accessible to refer to.

While I am still nursing my daughter, I opt to make every effort to eat whole plant-based foods while keeping saturated animal fats to a minimum. Foods high in saturated animal fats are linked to higher levels of body inflammation because they contain arachidonic acid. Higher body inflammation can cause body stiffness and trigger muscle and joint pain. Inflammation-worsening animal fats include dairy, red meat, and eggs. These animal fats may be fine to eat in moderation, but keep in mind higher consumption of them can also lead to a host of other chronic illness and cancer.

Foods rich in magnesium, as well as other vitamins and minerals, can help ease sore muscles and joints, making body movement easier in general. Magnesium-rich foods include sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, oats, green leafy vegetables, beans, and dried fruits.

If you have a sweet tooth, opt for natural sugars found in fresh fruit to satisfy your cravings. I find that making a smoothie in the morning or midday satisfies my sugar cravings and provides extra fuel for me to get through a long day. Here, I list some of my favorite easy smoothie recipes.

 

3) Take a Weekly Soak.

The bathtub has become my sanctuary over the years. Daniel and I joke about it often. What do I want when I get bad news? Take a bath. Got a stubbed toe? Take a bath. Where do I retreat to when the baby falls asleep for the night? Most often than not, the bath. I take baths way more than once a week, but they have really become a natural pain and stress reliever in my life.


Taking a soak in the tub may seem like a simple relaxing–maybe even selfish–indulgence from time to time, but really it can be very beneficial for your health. Take a bath with Epsom salts, and your body will thank you. Allow 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salts to dissolve in the tub water while drawing your bath, and soak for at least 12 minutes. Simple as that. Once they are dissolved in the water, Epsom salts break down into sulfate and magnesium. Soaking in the warm bath goes beyond loosening stiff joints and relaxing muscles. Bathing with Epsom salt boosts the body’s magnesium levels, a mineral crucial for healthy muscle and nerve function. Magnesium reduces body inflammation which can greatly reduce pain. Epsom salt baths also eliminate toxins from the body, flushing the body cells of toxins and heavy metals found in the environment, plastics and the foods we eat.

For added benefits, add a few drops of essential oil to your bath water. My favorites are lavender, frankincense, or peppermint (if I am not taking a bath right before bed). Here, I list my favorite essential oils and why.

4) Use Herbal Remedies.

Herbal medicine can be very effective in decreasing inflammation and providing pain relief. Herbal medicine is a form of medicine made from plants that is used for treatment of health problems. Herbal medicine, or herbalism, is becoming a more popular approach to managing pain. incorporating herbs into daily recipes or taking certain supplements may help reduce pain on a daily basis. For example, ginseng has been listed by the American Pain Foundation to possibly help reduce fibromyalgia pain. CBD oil, which is sourced from the cannibus plant, has also been said to do wonders for those with pain and other disorders.

Some other herbs that are thought to help reduce body pain:

  • Ginger: The phytochemicals found in ginger extract are thought to help reduce inflammation of the body and reduce muscle and joint pain.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric contains a chemical called curcumin which is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects. When taken small doses, turmeric may be very helpful in alleviating heartburn and arthritis pain. Avoid turmeric if you have certain conditions such as gallbladder disease.
  • Feverfew: This herb may be effectively used to help relieve arthritis pain and migraines. Feverfew has been used throughout history for the treatment of tooth and stomach pains as well as headaches.

I am a fan of drinking tea daily, and I explain why and which ones are my favorite here.  I believe drinking certain teas every day have done wonders to alleviate my body pain and help me feel more balanced mentally and emotionally.

*Avoid or consult with a physician before taking herbal remedies while pregnant or breastfeeding. Some herbs can cause pregnancy complications or early termination of pregnancy. Please take caution when using herbal medicinal remedies while taking certain prescription medications or substances. St. John’s Wort, for example can cause interactions when taken with antidepressants or other substances. Also, be aware of quantities you are using herbal remedies. High quantities of even plant substances can be toxic. Just because something is “natural” does not mean it is always safe. Please do research before using natural remedies on yourself or others.

*Also, keep in mind that herbs are not regulated for quality by the government. It is for this reason, I prefer to use herbs that are certified organic whenever possible.

 

If you experience frequent body pain, what are some natural and healthy ways you cope?

 

 

Travel New York Part 2 – Letchworth State Park


 

Taking a day trip to Letchworth State Park was like a dream. There is a reason why Letchworth State Park was voted one of the 10 best in the nation by USA Today in 2015!

It was the first road trip we took after the baby was born. I had finally recovered from giving birth at the end of July. It was a long, tiresome and grueling recovery, and Daniel and I were so thrilled to go out somewhere out of the ordinary, stretch our legs and breathe in the fresh autumn air. We also couldn’t wait to take our daughter (we’ve nicknamed her “Bethie Bean”) out on our first adventure as a family of three.

We packed our little car with a full diaper bag for Bethie, drinks and snacks to share on the road, and our favorite music playlist, and off we went! We made a few stops for gas and to feed the baby on the way. The trip took us several hours, but it was well worth the drive. The air was slightly crisp, but we were so glad to have a clear, beautiful day to revel in the views. When we finally arrived at Letchworth, we stopped along the long windy forest road to take in spectacular views of the gorge. The sights were simply breathtaking.

Overlooking the cliffs, you can hear the rushing waterfalls and see dozens of colorful hot air balloon’s floating off in the distance.

 

View of the Lower Falls of the Genessee River.

 

Also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”, Letchworth State Park features about 17 miles of jaw-dropping cliff views and three stunning waterfalls–the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. There are several restaurants within the state park so you can admire the views while enjoying a nice meal. The highest waterfall drops an impressive 600 feet; and the variety of activities offered by the park include tours, guided walks, kayaking, hot air ballooning, and whitewater rafting, as well as winter sports programs like snowmobiling, snowtubing, and cross-country skiing. Letchworth also includes two large swimming pools, several playgrounds, picnic tables, pavilions, campsites for tents and cabins. So much to do and see! The Genessee River flows through the park’s roaring gorge, surrounded by 66 miles of hiking trails and abundant forests.


 

 

 

As we continued to drive deeper into the park, there were quite a few scenic overlooks along the way. We drove a little further and were greeted by the beautifully restored Glen Iris Inn, which overlooked the magnificent Middle Falls of the Genessee.

View of the Middle Falls.

 

Visiting the Middle Falls was my favorite part of the entire trip. The view was indescribable. We were there just at the beginning of autumn, but I can imagine the view must be even more incredible mid-autumn when the leaves are fully turned and the colors are more vibrant.

View from the Middle Falls, looking down into the gorge.

 

We passed little natural waterfall before we went back to our car.

 

We did not make it to the Upper Falls, as the sun was setting. We were also surprisingly exhausted from all the walking with the baby and excitement of the day, so we left as it was getting dark. We are looking forward to going back in the spring.

Do you have any favorite New York travel destinations. If so, please let me know!

 

You can email questions or inquiries to seasaltlavender@yahoo.com.

Travel New York Part One – Watkins Glen


We got a taste of some warmer weather today. The snow melted into big puddles, and this glimpse of warmer days ahead has me pleasantly anticipating good things to come in Spring. Although Daniel and I are not the type to enjoy winter sports like snowboarding or cross-country skiing, we are very active outside during the warmer months. There is so much of this state we have yet to explore. We both enjoy adventure, and we are looking forward to bringing the baby out on our nature expeditions and day trips.

New York offers far more than arguably one of the most famous cities in the world. This state is not just covered in urban landscape. In fact, it is rich in natural beauty. With such diverse geography, a majority of New York’s geographical landscape consists of farms, lakes, rivers, forests, meadows, and impressive mountain ranges of the Catskills, Adirondack Mountains and the Great Appalachians Valley.

Reminiscing

When I was about 23, our relationship became “official” New Year’s of 2013 (months after talking on the phone every night). Not too long after, we took a trip to Upstate New York from where we were living separately at the time in New Jersey. Most of Daniel’s family lives in New York, and I was feeling jittery and anxious about meeting them for the first time. But I was also overwhelmed with excitement at the prospect of venturing around areas that were new and unfamiliar to me. We walked through the pretty, quaint town of Canandaigua in New York’s Finger Lake region where we discovered one of my favorite little eateries in the area for unique crepes and coffee, Simply Crepes; we visited wineries along breathtaking Seneca Lake; and my favorite of all was our hike through Watkin’s Glen.


Watkin’s Glen is the most famous of the State Parks in the finger lakes. I could not believe that I had never heard of this magnificent place before our trip.

I mean, it is incredible! If you ever pass through Upstate New York, I highly recommend you stop for a few hours to visit this incredible state park. Passing through the winding gorge path, you witness 19 waterfalls–and even walk under some of them–and 200-hundred foot cliffs overlooking the jaw-dropping impressive gorge. Pictures DO NOT even do it justice.

There are railings, but if take caution if you are bringing children. Many people bring their children, but it is A LOT of walking, uphill and downhill, near steep cliffs and waterfalls. As much as we’d love to go back very soon, we know we will be waiting quite a few years before we bring our daughter with us.

You can even reserve a camping sight and camp overnight if you decide you don’t want to leave this magical place quite yet.

Daniel and I have a long list of places in New York we look forward to visiting once the winter weather subsides, one of which we visited in the fall–many years after our very first Upstate NY trip. Join me tomorrow as I share with you details of our amazing trip this past fall, along with future New York destinations we plan on visiting this year!

Have you ever visited New York? If so, where is your favorite New York state destination?