Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lizard Skin

Winters in Maine are long, cold, dark and seemingly never-ending, and with that comes, what I call “lizard skin.” There are always ads in magazines that address “winter skin,” which never really resonated with me until this winter. Having been in Maine for almost 7 years now, I have gotten used to winter, the slowness, the staying inside, the introspection, the cabin fever hitting inevitably in February where every part of your mind and body is screaming to get out and get naked, ie venture to warmer climates. But lizard winter skin is a new phenomenon that I never really been bothered by until this winter.

Having grown up in sunny San Diego, my skin was always well tanned, clear and I wore little makeup and relied very little on face care products. At the age of 10 I, was introduced to Clarins beauty products. They have always been a staple in my medicine cabinet and as a teenager in CA I relied on their toner to cleanse, a little bronzer and mascara; as I have aged and since moved to frigid, sunless climates, my Clarins medicine cabinet needs one all to itself.

Clarins is a relatively expensive, but well-worth-it all-natural beauty care line made in France (maybe this answers the proverbial question of how and why French women are so lovely). Succumbing to lizard skin this winter, I have now mastered a skin care regime that reduces the lizardness and makes winter more manageable.

Skin care starts on the inside. You are what you eat, and eating well shows in your skin. Regular juicing, lots of fresh veggies and fruits, increased Vitamin D and Omega 3s, probiotics, especially goat milk kefir (mmm), a gluten free/lactose free diet and lots of water and green teas, is really the starting point of clear skin, at least for me. The image left shows what a skin issue on areas of your face mean. If you keep breaking out in the same area, it is your body's way of telling you something is not working well inside. This is also true with sleeping patterns, if you notice that you are continually waking the same time every night, your body is telling you something, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, a Chinese “meridian clock” is used to show the times of day when each organ system is most active. All these play into your healthy skin. If your intake is clean, then you are only dealing with environmental issues like wind, cold and skin not being able to breathe because we are so bundled up in the winter.

Not sponosored, just my preference
My regime consists of weekly facials with Clarins Gentle Peeling, moisturizing with their incredible face treatment oils: Ordchidee Bleue for really dry skin and Lotus oil for spot treatment. As much as I would love to purchase Clarins daily moisturizer it is just too expensive to justify my daily use, especially because I want to slather it over my entire body. I have used Olay for years, but am actively seeking an all-natural moisturizer and have yet to find a great candidate. (Any suggestions greatly appreciated) I use Clarins One-Step Facial toner/cleanser to lessen any unnecessary water on my face. The Beauty Flash Balm helps brighten skin and acts as a primer for makeup and lastly the Vital Light Serum helps with residual dark spots and fine lines. For my body I use a natural, sugar scrub with essential oils. I warm my skin up in the shower then turn off the water and rub the sugar scrub in slow circular motions, shoulders to toes. I then turn the water on and rinse. Ideally I would bathe more than shower, but currently we don’t have a bathtub. Lastly, I barely dry off and moisturize with c. Booth Honey Almond Body Butter for really dry days and Archipelago Botanicals Oat Milk Lotion for normal days.

Having identified how to beat lizard skin in the dead of a Maine winter really makes the cabin fever less painful, or at least seemingly more manageable with clear, happy, moisturized skin.

Native snow bunnies, any tricks of the trade and experience being in the dark, cold, drying, seemingly endless winters?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Beauty of Maine

There is a natural beauty of Maine that is impossible to capture on film, be it photographs or video. There is great inspiration that comes from what Maine exudes, which may explain the many artists that flock to the area to express themselves through their medium, using Maine as inspiration.

This winter we had some of the most incredible days I have seen since I moved here. We had an ice storm that challenged the renowned ice storm of 1997. Sheets of ice coated everything, from power lines, tree branches, roads, walkways, cars and more. There was an inch diameter around tree limbs and the remaining apples left over from harvest at the tippy top of trees. The ice was so heavy trees would creak and crack under the pressure and weight, if you stood still listening you could hear the eerie symphony of frozen trees creaking and swaying in the breeze, occasionally you could hear a crash and fall in the distance. Power lines snapped under the weight causing power outages for days, for some. 

But there was a tremendous level of beauty; beauty in the stillness, the silence and this glistening awe of everything being covered in crystals. I have forever been perplexed by holiday ornaments being coated in glitter and sparkly crystals, never understand the fake bling, beyond being festive. This ice storm made the connection for me. The ice coated everything, making everything glisten and sparkle in the sun. The sun would bounce between the ice covered tree branches, sparkling, twinkling and blinding with its sparkle. I finally saw the natural form of glittery holiday ornaments. While the ice caused great strife for many it was extraordinarily beautiful.

Attempting to catch the beauty that this winter brought in weather, massive amounts of snow and ice, subzero temperatures with days crystal clear blue skies, the cotton candy colored sunsets after a recent snowstorm, photographs attempt to show the beauty of Maine, some artists are able to capture a glimpse of that essence of beauty, but really there is no way to really see Maine except for being here. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Yay You are Getting Married....................(right, that means I don't get to eat)

We have gone to a plethora of weddings in the last 8 months. Apparently I am at that age where all my friends are getting married, which is super exciting and I couldn't be more happy for my friends and their embracing of holy matrimony. I am all for celebrating in their wedded bliss, but do I always have to be starving and consequently drunk at all weddings? (Because there is no food, not because it is wedding, mind you!)

Going to weddings, or any large function for that matter, when you have food allergies sucks! There is never food you can eat. When people try to feed a large crowd it is always food that our gluten, dairy loving society thinks we all love to eat, like casseroles which ALWAYS contain gluten and dairy. Case in point last night's wedding meal included meat lasagna, veggie lasagna (at least they attempted to think of the vegetarians, one win....ish), Israeli couscous (which are not gf), spanikopita (which I SO miss and I forgot how much I miss it until I saw it staring up at me in all it's flaky, butter goodness! I am determined to find a gf phyllo dough just to make spanikopita), scalloped potatoes (which are a risky choice, you can very well make scalloped potatoes with no flour, but commonly flour is sprinkled in with the potatoes and mounds of cheese to help it all stick together) and salad, oh and green beans, with an unidentifiable cream sauce. The wedding before that, had more veggie options (thank gosh! But it was a friend with similar food preferences), but still there were croutons in the the salad, more cheese than anyone could ever attempt escaping and still only 3 things I could eat, but even then it was a limited supply, by the time I went up for seconds I got the last few cold charred veggie cubes and the meal was over. And don't even mention desserts, ha, just don't even bother with the dessert table.

It is the same at any wedding meal, I get up to stand on line to be polite and secretly hoping, that maybe, just maybe there will be something for me to eat, and more times that not, I get salad. Don't get me wrong, I love my salads, but come on people, if you are going to have a open bar a girl cannot subsist on salad alone!

Even at company parties, showers, funerals, you name the function, even traveling and attempting to rely on airport food options, the food choices are so limited that a gf, lf, veggie girl like me must leave early due to stomach pangs or sneak into the bathroom from time to time to eat the nuts in my purse.

So what's a girl to do?

The only way to go to a large function is preparedness. Assume for all events that there will be nothing you can eat, unless you count salad, but then again there is never enough salad with the understanding that it will be your entire meal; and it most likely has cheese in it, and dreaded croutons (aren't those so 90s, who even eats croutons anymore?) and you always toy with the gf and sugar demons if the salad is pre-dressed, but when you have no other options and your second glass of wine is starting to hit, you take that risk and hope for the best as you feverishly inhale your green leafs. 

I eat before I go to anything, taking into account if I know the people and the function. And I pack snacks. Bring a larger than necessary and fashionably-paired-with-your-cocktail-dress purse so you can nibble on nuts, fruit and whatever else is easily portable that you can eat, while others mow on their glutenous, lactose-y crowd-pleasing torture-to-watch-them-eat food. Watch the open bar alcohol flow because that always poses a dangerous situation, and after the function rush to your car and eat the friendly meal you packed for yourself, go out to eat to a place that embraces you and all your food allergies or head home and cook something you know you couldn't have possibly found at the event, unless you intended on needing an EpiPen on the dance floor.

Another thing that really helps, is to know your food. If you know how something is commonly made or better yet, you have made it yourself in the past, it is easier to spot the glutenous and lactose-laden culprits at the buffet table. I know so many of us don't cook anymore and that makes it hard to know the components of scalloped potatoes or meatloaf or that any cream sauce was started with a roux and will inevitably have gluten in it. Loving to cook and experimenting with foods has allowed me to stand at a buffet table and breakdown the components of how a dish was made. There of course are always the 'could be' 'could not be' dishes that are tricky, you can either risk it, if you know the common preparation doesn't include gluten or lactose, you can pass it up or you can have an all-food-eating partner try it for you, to help you identify the flavors before you risk it yourself. But when in doubt pass it up.

Lastly, although I choose to eat very limited meat in my daily life, and if then it is only wild caught fish or organic, antibiotic free chicken, but even that is only a few times a month, unfortunately, meat is often a safe bet when attending a function or even going out to eat in a restaurant. Fish and chicken, however, are not wise choices because our gluten-loving compadres feel that gluten and cream needs to be added to all fish and chicken to somehow make it taste better. I say if you were more inventive with your cooking methods gluten nor lactose would have to be used to sell fish and chicken to the masses. Which leaves you with beef. I almost never eat beef, pork or lamb, but when eating out they are often safe bets. Again you have to look out for cream sauces and breading, but often if it is a nice cut of meat, the establishment doesn't want to do much to hide the fact that you are paying for a nice slab of meat. You have to look out for is soy sauce which is often used a flavor enhancer and tenderizer for many beef cuts. A piece of wisdom I have learned over the years, if you are like me and don't eat read meat often, I would highly recommend getting a slow cooked option, like slow cooked ribs, or pulled pork, any meat that the cooking process already started to breakdown the protein fibers. The slow cooking starts to "digest" the hard to digest meat fibers making it easier on your stomach. I would not recommend this if you never eat meat and have been a vegetarian for years, but if you choose meat, because of limited options, go with something that is pull-apart tender, your stomach and digestive tract will thank you. Just be careful of cooking methods, again looking out for soy sauce and brown sauces. So while I choose to not eat meat in my day to day life, sometimes the red meat options are safer when it comes to balancing out my food allergies to my preference of eating a vegetarian diet.

So while I am more than happy to celebrate with anyone, I am all for a party, even to celebrate your dog's birthday, but can you please, please start considering those of us with food allergies and not put gluten and dairy in everything, so that again I am only left to eat salad. There is only so much salad a girl can eat (and that is normally because salad is considered a side and there isn't enough to get seconds). Thank you and congrats in all your wedded bliss.