Every year I can't wait for summer to arrive. Life gets taken out side, put on the road, in the garden or the swimming pool. Longer sunny days bring with them a sense of freedom and holiday. Nature is in her stride, exploding in colour everywhere! So much beauty, bloom and buzz in the air.
Yes. Buzz. Of the bug variety.
Bug bites are definitely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. So of course we want to repel those bugs, right? But how? By using chemicals or natural ingredients? Which direction to go in?
EWG, (Environmental Working Group) surprisingly, leans heavily towards the use of chemicals over natural ingredients. When I first read this, I had to give my head a shake. What?!? Then I read a little closer, between the lines. They focus on an increase of tick-born diseases since 2004 as the basis of their recommendations. As such, they are erring on the side of blanket-blasting all ticks and bugs with everything in the arsenal. This feels like a panicked overkill to me, given the research on DEET being potentially damaging to brain function.
Bug repellents in Canada are regulated by Health Canada. They recommend everything from DEET (in concentrations ranging from 10%-30%, depending on the age of the user) to blends of specific essential oils. Their approach seems more evenhanded, taking into account safety considerations and individual preferences--allowing something for everyone. How Canadian, eh? I just love that!
My preference is to go natural, as much as possible. I also want to empower you to DIY. So here are a couple of recipes that can bring and your family some relief.
1. Natural Ant Killer
My son, Javid is no fan of the creepy or the crawly. So when the neighbourhood ants started conducting long parading visits through the house, something had to be done. Our research took us to WikiHow, where we found the recipe that did the trick.
Its a simple but effective blend of three ingredients--Borax, sugar and water. The sugar attracts the ants, the ants ingest it. The borax interferes slowly with ant digestive systems, giving enough time for an ant to get back to its colony and share it with its fellow ants. Once shared, the borax can take out the whole colony. Most humans don't have major reactions to this small an amount of Borax. That being said, handle the Borax carefully and follow the cautionary advice on the Borax box.
What you'll need
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoon Borax
1-1/2 cups warm water
A Jar for mixing
Stir stick or chopstick
Cotton balls or pads
Shallow dishes or Yogurt container lids
Pour the sugar and the borax into the jar. Cap the Jar and shake, shake, shake the sugar and borax together. Uncap the bottle and pour in warm water. Use stir stick or chopstick to stir water until borax and sugar are completely dissolved. Place cotton ball or pad on container lids. Pour ant killer liquid onto cotton ball or pad until it's saturated. Place the container in a high ant traffic zone indoors. Give it a few days, and then buh-bye ants!
2. Natural Mosquito Spray
This recipe is from Scratch Mommy. It's a simple, four ingredient blend that relies mostly on the wonderful properties of Tea Tree and Geranium Oil. I've adjusted the amounts of essential oils in the formula to reflect Health Canada safety standards and metric volumes.
Tea Tree or Melaleuca has been used for centuries by Aboriginal peoples in Australia. It's really a superpowered plant, known for its antimicrobial, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps human wounds heal, and it is toxic to many insects, including mosquitoes. Its some pretty stong stuff, so Health Canada recommends that it make up only 1% of your total formula.
Geranium Oil has some of the same properties as Tea Tree Oil (anti-bacterial, wound healing). It's also known for its ability to keep mosquitoes away. Health Canada recommends between 1-5% of the total formula.
Vegetable Glycerin helps hold the essential oils to your skin.
Combine the following ingredients in a 113ml spray bottle.
Glass or metal is best. I get some of my supplies from here.
• 1.5 ml (22 drops) Tea Tree Essential Oil
• 0.5ml (8 drops) - 5ml (110 drops) Geranium Essential Oil
(Scratch Mommy recommends only 0.5ml. Health Canada says you can go up to 5ml. My recommendation is somewhere in the middle--2.5ml (55 drops). The choice is yours, depending on your skin and scent sensitivities.)
• 15 ml (1tablespoon) Vegetable glycerin
Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water and shake until well mixed. Spray on as required and reapply as needed.
In case you don't feel like making it yourself...
If you don't feel up to making it yourself, I'm happy to do that for you. My Shoo Fly! formula has a number of extra goodies that make it useful for keeping more than just mosquitoes away. It also has soothing ingredients that can help in after-bite care.
So here's some anecdotal evidence about Shoo Fly! and its efficacy. Free Lion Body Care was at the Mission Folk Festival, enjoying both sunshine, music and meeting people who were trying out our products. Along came a little guy with a sad face.
"Why so glum, chum?" I asked. he told me he had been stung by a wasp. He showed me a huge, angry red welt on his forearm. His mum asked if I had anything for that.
"Try our Shoo Fly!" I suggested. I told her more about the formula. In a nutshell, Shoo Fly has witch hazel and aloe vera in it to help soothe the itchy feeling and speed up healing. There's Tea Tree, Geranium and Peppermint essential oils to help heal and cool the wound. These, plus the rest of the essential and carrier oils in it, work together to help keep other bugs away.
So Mum sprayed some Shoo Fly! on his red, swollen sting and off they went. The next day they came back. The little guy was smiling and eager to show me his wound. It had almost disappeared! Thank you, said Mom. She bought a bottle for the rest of the summer. And I had the satisfaction of a job well done.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
Do you have a favourite natural way of keeping the summer bugs away? Please share it with us.
Hello Summer Sun! So good to see you again. We love you Sun, we really do, but every good relationship needs boundaries. Preferably natural and non-toxic ones.
Think of natural sun protection in terms of shielding your skin from the sun. Well, how do you do that? Here are some basic tips from the Environmental Working Group to consider doing before you hit the sunscreen.
Tip #1: Cover Up
Shirts, hats, shorts, long dresses, skirts, pants--these provide the best protection from UV rays. Cover up as much skin as you can without getting uncomfortable. That ideally means from head to toe! But that is not everyone's comfort zone. So just go for as long a sleeve and pant/skirt length as you can tolerate.
Form fitting garments tend to hold both heat and sweat to your skin. Looser ones can provide some much needed, cooling air flow. Tightly woven or knitted, but lightweight fabrics like natural silk, cottons, t-shirting, or synthetic materials like rayon can all shade your skin beautifully, while letting the air flow through. Wearing bright or dark colours can also help. For example, a black T will absorb more UV rays than a white one.
Natural or synthetic fabrics? Choose what feels right for you. Have fun with it and don't forget the wide brimmed hat and sunglasses! Good shades protect your eyes from UV radiation that can cause cataracts.
In my wanderings on the net, I ran into Coolibar. If you need sun protective clothing for specific activities, they might be able to help you out. They have spent 20 years developing specialized UV protective fabrics and clothing. like long sleeved swimwear. In their words:
"Because Coolibar is a product with a purpose, we work closely with outdoor athletes, cancer survivors, dermatologists, medical advisors and organizations like the Melanoma Research Foundation, The Skin Cancer Foundation and the Lupus Foundation of America for additional design insight and technical expertise. The result is a new "user group strategy with product groupings around seven activities...designed to provide maximum comfort, coverage and UV protection for the whole family."
Tip #2: Find Shade or Make It
While you're out and about this summer, look for shade and spend some cooling time under it. Read a book under that big old oak tree, followed by a relaxing picnic. Keep the babies in the shade wherever you are. They are still developing the tanning pigments, known as melanin, that protect skin. If you have a canopy, or large umbrella, set it up on the beach or in the back yard.
Or take an umbrella parasol with you. Traditionally and currently, parasols are the personal sun shade of choice in Japan, China and surrounding countries. In Europe and North America, it had its moments but fell out of fashion in the 1920's as constructions of womanhood and beauty changed to adapt to more active lifestyles for women.
Jump cut to today. With the increasing concern about UV radiation, parasols have made a come back. If you are looking for a fashionable, artisan made parasol, Lily-Lark, based in New York, can definitely help. The fabrics are unique for parasols--playful and painterly, a fun twist on a traditional fashion accessory. The parasols are made by artisans in Bali (it looks like to me). It's my hope they are paid well for the lovely work they do. In the founder of Lily-Lark's words:
"Umbrellas have emerged as the latest go-to sun protection option for women. But most umbrellas are made of cheap nylon, metal and a whole lot of boring. Something more eleant than an umbrella was called for, which is why we've created chic, handcrafted parasols with a UPF 50+ coating that protects from over 98% of UV rays. Our Asian-inspired bamboo frames are topped by soft fabric canopies printed with exclusive contemporary fine art."
Tip #3: Plan around the Sun and Siesta
Ever wonder why siesta time is in the middle of the day? Well, the sun is its hottest then and a great way to beat the heat is to be out of it. Many sun cultures plan their days to avoid being out and about when the sun is at its hottest. Work activities happen early in the morning, there is a pause, and then things resume again when the sun is cooler. But there is a little more to it than that. Studies have shown that a half hour siesta can help reduce both stress and blood pressure, increase productivity and improve alertness and memory. So millions of people around the world who siesta can't be wrong!
If you're looking for a hammock for the back yard, your balcony or a travel sized one, La Siesta has you covered. The family-run company has a strong commitment to ethical practices, taking their responsibility to "creating a better world for our children and grandchildren" very seriously. To them a hammock is more than just furniture; it's a cultural asset that reflects a way of life. Their hammocks are artisan made in South America. In their words:
"The hammock’s message is very near and dear to our hearts, which is why we also want to support the people who make them. LA SIESTA has made a social commitment to many local projects in South America and in doing so we support, among other things, the use of high-quality and ecological materials like organic cotton and FSC-certified wood, in order to constantly improve the quality of our products and the living conditions of the people who make them."
How do you shade yourself from the sun? What are your favourite sun protective fashionables?
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion
Disclosure-The websites in this blog are provided as information only. I am not affiliated with them, nor do I get paid for advertising them. If you buy from them or have tried their products, please let me know how their products worked for you.
It's Rose Petal Time! My friend PJ and her lovely, precocious 4 year old granddaughter, Londyn, and I went urban foraging the other day. PJ has been doing so for years, incorporating her finds into her beautiful gourmet creations. I'm going to tell you right now that her Rose Petal Jelly is to die for, closely followed by her candied ginger.
Out we went into the wilds of Vancouver, bags and snips in hand, on a slow, rambling walk, in search of rose and lavender flowers. PJ taught Londyn to look for flowers that were in their full bloom and scent, just at the edge of making that turn into flower death. After a tearful encounter with some thorns, we looked for ones at her height that she could pick easily and thorn-free. She quickly caught on, saying "Londyn height" before harvesting each rose, while we harvested ones from taller locations. The three of us stopped and smelled the roses, literally, watched the geese and tug boats and made sure one of us wasn't too close to the water for danger of falling in. Mimi (PJ) and Auntie Lion (me) are terrible swimmers!
Now off to the kitchen! Here are four beautiful things that can be done with these incredible, fragrant gifts from Nature.
1. Drying Flower Petals
Gather roses that are in their full bloom and have not been sprayed with pesticides. To dry the rose petals, simply spread newspaper, parchment or kraft paper (I used kraft) on a flat surface. Gently separate the petals from the stems. Make sure there are no stems or bugs in your petals. Spread the petals evenly across your paper and let them air dry. They should be ready in a few days. Store them in an airtight container once they're dried.
If you don't have days to wait, place the petals in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the petals for 10 minutes at 170°F or until the petals are crisp and break easily (like potato chips). If your petals are still soft, bake for a couple of more minutes, remove, and recheck the crispy factor. Cool the petals completely and store them in an airtight container.
2. Rose Petal Raita
Raita is a fairly usual happening in our house. It's essentially a yogurt based condiment that can be used as a dip, a dressing or a way to cool down a spicy hot curry. And it's a fabulous way to get your acidophilus quotient in. I made this one using the rose petals we foraged. The chives and coriander are fresh from my garden.
500g Greek or Balkan Yogurt (you could use lower fat yogurt, it'll just taste less creamy)
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup dried or fresh rose petals
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Pour yogurt into a bowl. Add the rest of ingredients except salt and pepper. Stir in. Taste. Now add the salt and pepper according to your taste. Serve garnished with coriander leaves and rose petals.
3. Flower Petal Salad
It's BBQ season! What better way to enjoy the gifts from the grill with a lovely flower petal salad? This recipe uses Chive flowers, those beautiful purple, round flowers that top chives, they have a subtle onion flavour. Rose petals give the salad some sweetness. Both a complemented beautifully by a light vinaigrette.
4 cups greens of your choice. You could use kale, baby spinach, arugula...the possibilities are endless!
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot grated
Flower Petals from 2 roses
Flower petals from 2 chive flowers
For The Vinaigrette
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Tear or cut greens into bite-sized pieces. Combine remaining salad ingredients in a bowl. In separate bowl, mix together the white wine vinegar and honey (or maple syrup). Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette. Enjoy!
4. Rose Marzipan Tea
One of my favourite teas from the Granville Island Tea Company is their Rose Marzipan, a delicately flavoured rose and almond black tea. Black tea, one of the most consumed beverages in the world, has a number of health benefits. So here we go, with some of its super powers.
Black tea contains:
• polyphenols which have antioxidant properties. Consuming antioxidants may help decrease the risk of chronic disease and improve your overall health.
• flavonoids, which are beneficial for heart health. Studies have found that regularly drinking black tea may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
• LDL is a ipoproteins that carries cholesterol throughout the body. Too much LDL in the body can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have found that black tea may help reduce LDL levels.
• Polyphenols and antimicrobial properties found in black tea may help improve gut health and immunity.
High in Vitamin C, A and E Rose petals have been used for centuries to boost the immune system, improve digestion, relieve menstrual cramps and reduce stress and anxiety. The added bonus is that Rose tea has skin benefits. It can help hydrate and tighten the skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and dark circles as well as support the production of collagen which is vital for the health of your skin and hair.
Almond extract is full of proteins, vitamin E and b-6 and essential minerals. It, like roses, also improves digestion, and is beneficial to the immune system, hair and skin.
So when life gets to you, keep calm and have a cuppa!
2/3 cup of Black Tea leaves
6 teaspoons pure almond extract, food grade
2 cup of dried rose petals
Place your tea leaves in a bowl and add the almond extract. Mix it well into the leaves using a spoon or your very, very clean and sanitized fingers. Add the rose petals and, with that trusty spoon, mix the petals in, making sure they are evenly distributed. Put into an air tight bottle and allow the flavours to infuse the tea leaves.
I've been thinking about the word Beauty recently. Not a big surprise, given what I do for a living. What does it mean exactly? Is it a noun, a person place or thing? Is it a feeling? An action? Is it learned? Why is it important anyway? And what does it mean to me, as an artisan and a formulator of natural skin care products? Okay, I know, too many questions. But it's how I figure things out for myself. Ask, and ye shall perceive.
Beauty, the Thing
Physical Beauty is a thing, I suppose, a phenomenon viewed objectively, almost instinctually. How do we humans know what is beautiful? Funnily enough, this one comes down to math. Yep. Math. And geometry.
Geometry is at the core of all things natural, from flowers to fauna and beyond. Humans were quick on the artistic uptake and have been using geometry for proportion and beauty in art and architecture for centuries. Studies show that humans consider a person to be beautiful based on how perfectly symmetrical the face is. It’s an innate thing, something evolutionary we have encoded within us, that seems to transcend training or opinion.
Leonardo Da Vinci believed that all creation was part of a universal plan. He ambitiously aimed to embrace the whole universe in his a life-long study to discover its rules and mathematical principles. Drawing and painting were the means to an end, his method of communicating his findings. Remember his Vitruvian Man? It is a symbol that depicts balance and harmony as represented in the symmetry and ratios coded within the human form. To me, it's more than that: it's a metaphorical map of how to live a harmonious and balanced life, in alignment with nature's blueprint for continued growth and evolution. It indicates the need to consider all of ourselves--mind, body and spirit-- in this equation.
Beauty the Feeling
What does it mean to “feel Beautiful”? Ever looked in the mirror and had that moment of “you’re beautiful?” Did you track your thoughts before you had the beautiful moment? Often the thoughts and feelings that precede are loving, joyful or compassionate ones. You could have been thinking about someone you love, or have just come back from a great hike through the forest or had a fulfilling interchange with someone.
Human experience is messy and physical beauty fleeting. Qualities of the heart, mind and soul come through the face, enhancing beauty. These include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-command. They also include curiosity, excitement, challenge, growth.
Inner beauty is reflected in many ways--through our thoughts, compassion, friendship, giving to others and ourselves, and the very choice to engage our lives, full-on. I think this is what it means to be beautiful from the inside out. When one feels engaged and fulfilled, it sparkles in the eyes. It shows on the face in a radiance that face make-up just can’t approximate. It is the flush of happiness, the excitement of adventure. It's the glow of a life well lived.
Beauty as Self-Care
I know that when I am tired, stressed, anxious, angry, depressed, these all show on my face in dark, scowling brooding measure. So, not a moment when I’m inclined to say, “Hey, you’re beautiful” to my mirrored reflection. This is why balanced self-care is such an important thing.
All that wisdom you hear about eating healthy, exercising, not bottling up negative emotions, experiencing gratitude, setting healthy boundaries? These are some of the actions that precede feelings of love, joy, oneness that become expressed in your face as beauty. Hokey as it sounds, beauty seems to rest deeply in the act of loving yourself. Being loved in return is a residual benefit!
Beauty as Creative Process
Then there is the creative process, a source of beauty all its own. It requires you to have a connection to your spirit, a sense of purpose and a desire to express your Self. Okay, I know that's centuries of Art Theory distilled down into one sentence, but I've been thinking about this for a long time!
The urge to create is like a compulsion or a calling that flows through your being, pushing you to make, write, paint, compose, garden or whatever your art medium asks of you. It is a playground on which mind, body and spirit meet to play. In this case, the product of that meeting is secondary to the sheer will and audacity to put yourself out there, to say, "I am here and this is how I experience my world." Creating a beautiful object becomes the happy by-product of this beautiful act.
We’ve been trained by Big Beauty, by way of fashion magazines, movies and a myriad of other media to understand beauty as something that is physical, young, thin, with perfect skin, perfect curves, perfect you-fill-in-the-blank. As a woman who turned 55 this year, I no longer fit that stereotype. In fact I’m not sure I ever did.
I’ve had sensitive skin for most of my life. In my twenties, I experimented with make-up, as many of us do. The killer for me was foundation. It clogged my pores, choking and irritating my skin. The matte finish felt fake, muting my natural skin glow. So despite the best efforts of many advertising executives, foundation was not a staple in my make up bag.
Mascara was quick to follow. It made my eyes go into watering overdrive. Eyeshadow became something only for special occasions, as it would dry out my eyelids, making them itchy. The only things that worked for daily wear were eyeliner and lipstick. So be it.
My Big Beauty training in ‘the look” was irreparably interrupted by my body just saying NO. It was a call I had to hear and so I found myself looking for natural solutions, way before it was trendy to do so. And I learned to love my look, no matter what magazine covers screamed at me from the grocery checkout line!
What does Beauty mean to me as a natural skin care formulator?
Beauty, to me. is about what emanates from within. It's in the glow of the skin, the sparkle of the eye, and the joy in the heart. How could i possibly bottle that? I can’t. But what I can do is formulate natural blends that will help support your skin and self-care rituals. And if you feel even a little happier using something natural and non-toxic on your skin, that’s going to show in your glow! If I can help you achieve that, then my job is done here.
Why is Beauty Important?
Quite simply, its an external indicator of your overall health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. If you’re feeling beautiful, it means you’ve likely been taking some good care of yourself, having some loving thoughts and feelings about yourself and others, setting healthy boundaries, nurturing yourself inside and out, exercising, believing in yourself, feeling your fears and doing it anyway. You’ve likely been walking in your own authentic natural self. Now THAT’S beautiful!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Body Care
What are your thoughts about Beauty? What makes you feel Beautiful?
What could joint pain, skin, problems, sugar cravings, food allergies, food sensitivities, constipation and autoimmune disease have in common? Would you believe, Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The ancient Greek physician and Hippocrates said that “all health and disease begins in the gut”. Maybe he was on to something. Today, scientific, published study after study (which number in the several thousands) have grown our understanding of how modern diets and lifestyles negatively affect gut function and so lower our disease immunity In short, we could be currently eating ourselves into unwellness.
When my partner Thom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, the neurologists tried a few drug combos, none of which worked. They verbally patted his head and told him that there was nothing to be done, that he should just accept his fate like a good boy. The condescension is not exaggerated. Enter me into his life in 2011, unable to accept that verdict. As a 3rd level Reiki practitioner familiar with plant-based remedies and aromatherapy, I had been around enough situations where people (including myself) could turn around physical conditions without having to revert to Western Medicine and its “triage management” approach. And so the research into what could help Thom began. Which is when we met, “Leaky Gut Syndrome".
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Your gut is a powerhouse that works night and day to process the food-fuel you put into your body. Your gut lining is like a security guard that lets beneficial nutrients into your bloodstream while keeping the toxic waste out so that it can be eliminated. Now imagine that there are so many toxins in your intestines that they have riddled your gut lining with holes through which undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria are free to enter your bloodstream and poison your body. Now you have Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Studies show that 80% of your immune system cells live in your gut. When random particles enter your bloodstream, your body sets off its warning alarm to tell your immune system to call in the troops and fight the infection. Your immune response will protect you, but each time it’s triggered, it causes systemic inflammation. And if the stream of toxins is relentless, your immune system will go into overdrive, preventing your body from being able to heal and repair itself naturally. The long-term effects of this could be more chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Leaky gut has also been linked to autism, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, obesity, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. Cue Light Bulb Moment.
How do I know if I have Leaky Gut?
According to those same studies, there’s a direct link between the gut and the skin (gut-skin axis) gut and brain (gut-brain axis). What that means is that there’s a long list of symptoms you could have when your immune system is fighting toxic infection. Here are some of them:
• Skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis
• Allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances
• Digestive symptoms, like bloating, constipation, diarrhea
• Candida yeast overgrowth
• Irritable Bowel Diseases, like Celiac Disease, Crohn’s and ulcertaive colitis
• Autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, MS
• Depression, anxiety
• Hormonal imbalances, including PMS and estrogen dominance
• Nutrient deficiencies
• Brain fog
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
The ones that twigged for Thom were Autoimmune disease, food allergies, skin conditions, brain fog, asthma and depression. So I began to research how we might be able to heal his gut.
Can You Heal a Leaky Gut? Eat Gut Healing Foods
Our modern, North American fast food/processed food diet really sucks for health and wellness. The major culprits, in our experience, are refined sugar and carbs, trans-fats, gluten, non-organic dairy products,, wheat, additives and preservatives and pesticides. These pro-inflammatory foods are most damaging to gut health. Yet in North America we consume them on a regular basis.
So we made changes to his diet. Bye Bye Donuts, brownies, dairy, pasta, bread, noodles, lagers. Hello Green Smoothies, grass fed meat, coconut oil, veggies and fruits, seed butters, bone broth, sauerkraut, and Guiness. This process took some time. We eliminated foods and put them back to see what he reacted to. In the end, we found ourselves in the Paleo Diet terrain, which also works for me and my eczema. I’ve included a downloadable PDF from www.blog.kettleandfire.com of lists of foods that heal Leaky Gut and foods to stay away from. There are some things on the “Never Eat” list that Thom can eat, just not everyday. It’s all a matter of paying attention, trial, error. Or getting yourself tested to see what foods are “no go zones” for you. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to download the PDF.
Here are some gut-healing must-haves:
• Bone Broth. It's full of collagen, gelatin and glutamine, which help heal and repair the gut lining. We make ours broth at the top of the week in a slow cooker. It get put into smoothies and other meals.
• Lightly cooked veggies - steamed or stir fried in coconut oil. The rule of thumb is that raw foods can be hard for a leaky gut to digest. I’d say see what works for your gut.
• Coconut oil. Its natural antibacterial properties help combat bad bacteria in the gut; its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe and calm the intestinal lining. Besides, it provides much needed “brain fuel”. An essential ingredient of Thom’s smoothies, and my go-to for stir frys.
• Grass fed meats are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids and minerals— two nutrients needed for gut health. And it tastes WAAAAY better than grain-fed meats.
• Wild fatty fish or fish oil is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish also contains vitamin D, which has been linked to gut health. We also use flaxseed oil.
• Oat Juice. It helps soothe and repair intestinal linings. We found that this was the case with Thom. If you have serious grain intolerance, this might not work for you.
Keep Stress Levels Down.
This one is critical because stress unleashes hormones in your body that can exacerbate the immune system. Here are some suggestions to beat stress.
• Go to bed an hour earlier each night (bonus: every hour of sleep you get before 11 p.m. is said to be worth 2 hours). I must confess that Netflix and binge watching sometimes makes this one hard to do!
• Turn off the Tech before bed time. The artificial blue light from screens is linked to disturbances in your natural sleep and wake cycles. Yeah, also not an easy one for me, much easier for Thom.
• Spend time outdoors (even if it’s just a 20-minute walk during your lunch break) to absorb vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it promotes a happier mood, and it also plays an important role in reducing gut inflammation. This one makes a huge difference!
• Yoga, meditation, and exercise can help ground you through stress and release those“happy hormones”, your body’s natural anti-depressants. Thom has been hitting the gym with our friend, Pam three times a week. His stability, strength and mood have greatly improved. I have been walking more and going to Zumba Classes. A little happy dancing goes a long way!
• Hang out with with people who inspire and uplift. Do more things on your own that nurture your spirit. Spend less time with people and situations that depress or create anxiety. This is totally making a difference for Thom. And music is his go-to for soul nurturing.
Put in some Good Bacteria
Probiotics are incredibly important when it comes to healing and preventing leaky gut. Not only do they help keep bad bacteria out of your digestive tract, they also strengthen the gut lining, to help prevent leaky gut. There’s a few things that can deplete good bacteria from your system: antibiotics, chronic stress, too many carbs, too much refined sugar and stomach viruses. But fear not, you can replace good bacteria with fermented foods like:
• Unsweetened coconut or goat milk yogurt (organic cows milk yogurt if you don’t have dairy sensitivities)
• Apple cider vinegar (raw, unpasteurized, and with “the mother”)
• Beet Kvass
• Organic unsweetened goat milk kefir
Or you can take a probiotic supplement that will contain several different strains of good bacteria. These can be found in the refrigerated section of your local health food store. Goat milk kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are Thom’s go-tos. Mine is organic yogurt, which I have with fruit and nuts in the morning.
Detox Your System
While you can’t control all the toxins around you, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to them. Number three below is actually one of my inspirations for starting Free Lion Body Care in the first place.
• Drinking plenty of clean, filtered water.
• Choosing organic produce when possible.
• Switching to natural cosmetics, body care products, and household cleaning products. I make my own (!!).
• Making it a priority to sweat. Sweating through exercise helps your body eliminate toxins naturally.
The state of your gut matters to your health, on a daily basis. Even the most basic, little changes can mean the difference to feeling more energetic, having healthier looking skin, and having deeper, more restful sleeps. And who doesn’t want that!?
It is my hope that these changes we’ve made are setting Thom’s body up for some success in the eventually healing MS department. Already we have seen improvement, though not total reversal, in his symptoms. And dude is WAAAAY happier to be around these days. I have no idea if the damage already caused by the disease is actually reversible. Apparently, the MS doctors don’t either. So it comes down to choosing between, “Nothing you can do, but be a good boy and have this pill while you’re waiting to die” vs. “Hell, YA, let’s give that natural remedy a try. What’ve we got to lose? And are you up for sit skiing this winter, honey?” For us, that choice is a no brainer.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team.
This blog post represents my opinion and experience only. Do what works for you. Below is downloadable PDF infographic on foods the help or hinder the gut.
Woohoo! Spring is here and sandal weather is just around the corner. I know i’ve neglected you, feet. You work so hard all year round. But I’m going to make it up to you. Bye Bye boots and heavy socks. Not that I don’t love you and the way you keep my feet warm and dry through the winter. It’s just that I can’t wait to feel the warm summer air tickling my toes.
Here are some tips to love your feet from funky to fabulous.
1. Go polish free for a bit. Remove any polish you may have applied for the winter and let your toenails breathe for at least a week or so.
2. Give them a good soak in warm water and bath salts. Soaking gives your feet that relaxing Aaaah feeling. it also helps soften up skin to make exfoliating easier and gets toenails polish ready. Grab a bucket or a small tub. Add some bath salts some lemon or cucumber slices, flower petals or mint leaves and a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. . Kick back, relax, read a book. Let feet soak for about 10 minutes.
From our shelves: Free Lion Relaxing Bath Soak.
We make it with mineral and Dead Sea salts, whole milk powder (to help soften skin), Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium and Cedarwood Essential Oils (to soothe and relax) and rose, lavender, chamomile and calendula petals (because they're just so damn PRETTY!)
3. Exfoliate. After the foot soak, your skin is softer and ready for exfoliating. Tough skin can build up over the winter Remove dry, calloused skin from heels and foot bottoms with a foot file or pumice stone. Follow with a or sugar or salt scrub to remove the layer of dead skin from your legs and feet.
From our shelves: Free Lion Body Scrubs.
Namika is a salt scrub and polish, made with mineral salts, ground azuki beans, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay, nori flakes and Vitamin E. Perfect for tough skinned feet.
Lavender is a salt scrub made with mineral salts, ground apricot kernel seed shell, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay and Vitamin E. A lighter salt exfoliant that works wonderfully for most feet.
Espresso is a sugar scrub made with organic cane sugar, ground coffee beans, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay and Vitamin E. A gentler exfoliant with the added kick of coffee to perk up the skin.
Rose Garden is a sugar scrub made with organic cane sugar, oat flour, ground brown rice, chick pea flour, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay and Vitamin E. An even gentler exfoliant designed for sensitive skin.
4. Moisturize. Keep that dry skin nourished. Follow exfoliation with a lotion, cream or body butter. Ideally, you want to do this when you are not using your feet. Apply moisturizer to your feet, put on a pair of cotton socks and put your feet up. Its Netflix time!
From Our Shelves: Free Lion Foot Salve
We make it with a highly moisturizing blend of shea butter, coconut, sunflower, sweet almond and castor oils to soften your skin and cuticles. Then we add neem oil to help repair cracked skin; tea tree, lavender and rosemary essential oils for their anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties and peppermint essential oil to stimulate circulation and bring some healing oxygen to your feet.
5. Cut and File. Now that your skin has been refreshed, time for those toenails. Trim your nails into a square shape and not too close. No, that’s not just a fashion thing. Having a square at either edge of your toenails helps keep ingrown toenails and the pesky bacteria that can make them hurt in check. Use a nail file to gently smooth nail edges and any rough spots. Or get a professional to do this part.
6. Care for Cuticles. Gently push your cuticles back to make room for some bold, bright polish. You can use the end of your nail file, a special cuticle tool or, if you're a minimalist like me, your fingernails.
7. Get out your paint box. This is the fun part. Choose a colour that makes you feel happy and bright because you’ll be the one that gets to enjoy your toe colour all the time--in fact, everytime you look down at your feet. Start with a nourishing base coat, followed by a 2-3 layers of your colours. Get creative. Paint each toe a different colour; add stickers; paint on a pattern; add sparkles. Just have fun with it. Finish with a protective top coat. You can DIY it or have a professional make that magic happen for you.
There! You're done. Now it's time to take your toes out for a night on the town or to the beach or any place that says, "Play time!" to you. Choose a pair of sandals that make you feel comfortable, relaxed, happy in your own skin. Look down at your feet periodically and enjoy the walking work of art that is YOU!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are your favourite ways to pamper your feet? Leave us a comment below.
Spring is finally here! I look forward to this time of year, like most people who live in northern climates. The snows thaw, temperatures warm and nature begins to come back to life. It’s time for the fresh and the new; and it’s also time to let some old things go. Yep, Spring Cleaning time! Pull out, dust out, clean out, throw out. Works great for our outer stuff. But what about our inner stuff?
Our inner worlds are also cluttered with old emotional habits and patterns that no longer fit. If we were to analyze our negative internal dialogue, for example, we would likely find that underneath all its layers lies a fear of some kind that holds us back from being or expressing our most awesome selves. The question is: how do you throw that fear stuff out?
Recognize your fear and how it expresses itself.
That’s not always an easy thing. The tell-tale, fear red flags are anxiety or worry. Our bodies are really good at carrying these signs. You might feel your stomach turning or butterflying; you might have a headache; you might feel down or like you’re carrying a heavy weight; your heart might literally ache a little or be beating a little too fast. These physical sensations are usually quickly followed by some self-talk, usually judgemental, mean and self-deprecating. Yep. That be Fear going on inside you.
Here’s a little story from my Life’s Safari to help illustrate. When I began Free Lion, I was making Vegan Leather bags (available through my Etsy Store. I still make them to order). After graduating from Architecture school, I had been a stay-at-home and then part-time working Mom. After my divorce, I had to focus on making a full-time living. I had always wanted to work for myself as an artist/artisan, selling what I made. But, I was broke and terrified, with no real confidence that I could run my own business.
When I sat to work at the sewing machine. I would feel that knot in my stomach and my heart would race a little. Then the thoughts would start. “You’ll never succeed. You think that’s even good enough? No one is going to buy that! Everyone is going to see you have no talent.”
I would argue with those voices in my head to hold them at bay while I sewed. This went on until I noticed that it was taking me forever to make a bag because I was spending more energy and time focused on fighting with the voices than on sewing. That was the day that I started questioning the voices in my head.
Question the Voices in your Head
I was working with a counsellor at the time who introduced me to Byron Katie and The Work, a meditative approach to opening to your heart’s voice and your personal truths. The goal is to be who you ARE, not what others think you SHOULD be. The process is not to simply replace a negative thought with a positive affirmation, a la Louise Hay or The Secret. It goes much deeper than that. It helps you become mindfully aware of your thoughts and the effect they have on you, so that you can change your relationship with them.
Most of us react in situations on auto-pilot, using stress survival habits we learned as children. Katie lays out 4 questions to ask yourself in the face of negative thoughts or fear feelings. My counsellor added one more, which helped me to stop taking on other people’s stuff by identifying which beliefs/thoughts were mine and which belonged elsewhere. Asking yourself the questions gives you a moment to slow down, witness, analyze, evaluate and choose how to respond. It takes you from reacting on auto-pilot to responsively using your own agency.
Here are Katie’s questions, plus the one more from my counselor. Sit with each question one at a time, in order. Go inside and listen for the answers that come up, paying attention to your internal dialogue, body sensations, etc. As in, "What comes up for you?" I found it useful to record my answers in a journal so that I could go back over them, analyze and re-evaluate.
So back to the story of me struggling at the sewing machine with vinyl and voices in my head. Care to walk through the Katie questions with me? Ok. Close eyes. Deep Breath. And then another one. And one more. Blow it all out. Now, take one more. Breathe.
The Statement under question,
"You’ll never succeed."
1. Is it true?
Hmmm. I don’t know. I’ve never run my own business before and actually, I’m just fricking scared right now.
2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Meaning do I have Actual Factual, tangible evidence that it’s true, that I won't succeed? Uh, well no. I guess i don't. I haven’t done it before so i have no concrete experience or numbers to prove I won't succeed. So it might be possible, right? I might actually be able to do this.
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
I feel sick, my stomach turns; i feel anxious, scared, like a loser, helpless, crippled, disempowered, unworthy, alone, kinda abandoned. Yeah. This sucks.
4. Where did you learn this idea?
Hmmm. My dad, rest his soul. He was a talented artist who wanted to be a graphic designer. In fact, in 1964 he was all set to start a job with an advertising firm in Nairobi, Kenya. Due to family circumstances, he had to join the family restaurant business. He quietly set aside his dreams, and never talked much about his own disappointment, or how he lived with it. He was, however, the voice of doom in all of our own career explorations. Sadly, Dad didn’t have a Byron Katie to help him out. But I do.
Ok, so this isn’t my own belief at all. I learned it from Dad. It's a limiting belief that comes from his experiences and fears. His idea of success was a professional career, not one based on craft or manual labour. I have professional credentials, but I haven't worked in architecture for 11 years. I'm behind on the career track. and the industry has become computerized. I would have to retrain, something I don't have time for. Besides, I would rather run my own business, designing, making and selling my own work.
I am not my father. I don’t have to listen to his fears and values anymore. I don't have to let them hold me back. "Thanks for worrying about me, Dad but I'm not a lesser person for enjoying designing and working with my hands. I am not a lesser person for not meeting your expectations."
This is huge! I can give myself permission to make another choice. I can work at wiping Dad’s broken dream from my inner dialogue, without shame or guilt; I can listen to my heart’s truth; I can shift my perspective; I can focus on bringing my own dream to life, one step at a time. And if I get stuck, I can ask for help. Hell Ya! A hallelujah door just opened up in the sky (cue choir of Angels)!
5. What happens when you believe something else?
When I believe that success is possible, the way that feels true to me, I feel more relaxed, grounded, capable, determined. While I am looking at a mountain to climb, I feel scared yet excited, hopeful. Maybe I WILL be able to do this after all. Woohoo!
Choose your own Adventure
The beauty of this process is that you can CHOOSE your own beliefs, your own feelings, your own adventure. You do not have to be weighed down by beliefs that are the projections of someone else’s broken dreams or expectations. Nor do you have to be wracked with guilt for not living up to them. It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever feel fear or have limiting beliefs ever again--you will. But now you’ll have a method to face each one, break it down, shift your perspective and choose something else.
Did you notice that the answer to the question involving my Dad was the longest of all the answers? That’s not an accident. The stuff that we inherit from childhood is actually the most complex stuff to dismantle and throw out. But it is possible to do. Just go slowly, layer by layer. And be kind with yourself.
Just remember that you were born with abilities, predispositions and talents written right into your DNA. That’s your nature. How you are raised and taught (that's Nurture) can sometimes wreak havoc with your inner balance. So, it’s down to you to honour your own nature and nurture yourself back into wholeness
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
How do you overcome fears? Do you have a process that works for you?
I live a pretty stressful life, like many of us on this planet. I can be found rushing around, to do list and iPhone calendar in hand, doing all the things I need to do to make a living, run a house, care-take my loved ones. I'm a big culprit of multi-tasking, even on Down Time. Yep, I'm that girl who would read or watch TV while she ate. Until I met the concept of Mindful Awareness and its cousin, Mindful Eating.
About Mindful Awareness. What is that? It is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself - in your body, heart and mind; and outside yourself - in your environment, the Actual Factuals around you. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgement. The last sentence is very important. Mindfulness is not about comparing yourself to anyone else or judging yourself or others. You are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as you move through life.
Why is Mindfulness important? When you practice mindfulness, you stay in the present moment; you aren’t anxious about the future or depressed about the past. You aren’t swallowed up by the insatiable dragon of self-doubt. You don't take everything that happens personally. Mindfulness helps you develop appreciation, for yourself and others and the world around you. And most important of all, for your own connection to yourself, your own inner knowing. Some would argue that it’s the direct hotline to the Soul!
So What is Mindful Eating?
After my second son was born, I hit the Weight Watcher scale and lost pounds all the way to a gold membership. Triumphantly, I accepted my goal achievement award with pride and a sense of accomplishment. I did not expect the hollow, sinking feeling that came in the weeks to follow. “Is this it?” I thought. “Am I going to have to keep thinking about food, weighing it, measuring it, craving it for the rest of my life?” Rather than feeling free, I felt trapped, handcuffed to a scale. There had to be a better way.
Which is when I met Mindful Eating. Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. It’s about slowing down and tuning out the voice in your head long enough to pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds of your food. It’s about being present in the sensual experience your body is having. Where in the body do you feel hunger? Where do you feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full? Eating slowly keeps you from overeating because your body has enough time to register “fullness”. It relays that important message to your brain, which will then tell you it's time to put the fork down.
When eating mindfully, you’re also observing the voice in your head with its judgements or criticisms. It's about disentangling from this internal drama to pay attention to what your body is experiencing. When your mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what you are eating or drinking, or you have an impulses to grab a book, or check your FaceBook, witness the impulse and return your attention to eating, the tastes, the sounds. This actually, eventually, turns eating into a calming, meditative process.
The more you practice mindful eating, the more aware you become of your relationship to food. You begin to notice how eating affects your mood and how your emotions, like anxiety or loneliness, influence your eating. You can begin to make more conscious choices--about food, your thoughts and your beliefs about yourself. The goal is to gradually regain the sense of joy, ease and freedom with eating that you had in childhood. It is your natural birthright.
I continue to work on this one...mindfully, of course! When I first started, I experienced a lot of resistance. I just didn't want to do it. I noticed self-deprecating thoughts, and feelings of loneliness, boredom and anxiety come up. All I wanted to do was escape into a book like I did when I was a child/teen, so that I wouldn't have to listen to those thoughts or feel those feelings. In practicing observing and just letting the feelings pass through me, some days I really had to force myself to sit through just eating. I did my best to focus on the food, how good it tasted, what foods I truly enjoyed, what foods made me feel heavy and yuck.
Eventually, I started to listen to my body’s idea of appropriate foods for me. Gone were the endless authoritative eat lists from Weight Watchers. When my mind started telling me I was a loser because I was a Weight Watchers Fail, I would tell it, “ Dude, hold that thought. I'm a little busy right now,” and go back to savouring my salad and barbecued chicken tikka, made to order, just the way my body liked it. When I felt lonely or sad and reached for Netflix and snacks, I’d give my emotions a hug and tell them, “This sucks, but it will pass. We’re stronger than this.” Then l’d listen to my body, choosing its Viewing Snack of choice: raw sunflower seeds in shell (a slow eat, full of nutrients for my skin, gut and brain) and a tall bottle of water. Occasionally, some chocolate. Yes, I was multi-tasking while eating, but in a way that honoured my body.
The tide truly turned when I started to reframe some self-perceptions about my worth, likeability and attractiveness. Soon I was able to disengage thoughts and emotions from food. Food was not about filling emotional emptiness or distracting from boredom. It was about self-nurturing, self-appreciation, pleasure and enjoyment. Too much food was not the thing that made me judge myself harshly as fat and ugly. Those critiques came from the judgements and standards of others that i accepted as more authoritative than my own voice. Now, I choose to believe something different: that my body knows it's ideal healthy weight and eating preferences; that I am one of a long line of curvy lovelies; that my worth comes from what I do, not what I look like; that I like myself just as I am. This award has been a long time coming--20 years to be exact. I am proud to have earned it and thankful to claim it as my own.
Some mindful eating homework
My partner, Thom, lives with MS and needs help to eat. We usually graze from the same plate, alternating forkfuls, as we have done from our first date on. I can't tell you how much this simple daily practice does for our intimacy and connection, on every level. 😉
Here are some mindful eating exercises, if you feel so inclined.
(1) Try taking the first four sips of a cup of hot tea or coffee with full attention. Savour the flavours; notice temperature and the sensations on your tongue; pay attention to the movement in your throat as your swallow; follow the swallow down to your stomach and notice when your start to feel full or satisfied.
(2) If you are a reader and eater, like me, try alternating these activities, not doing both at once. Read a page, then put the book down and eat a few bites, savoring the tastes, the textures, the sounds of your food, then read another page, and so on. Mix it up, observe what feels right to you, and do that.
(3) Try eating one meal a week mindfully, alone and in silence. Be creative. For example, could you eat a picnic in the woods; or savour a latte while sitting at the beach. Be present, observe sights, sounds, smells, tastes. Connect with Joy.
(4) Make meals social. Put away the tech. Connect with other humans, eat, converse, engage and laugh. A lot.
Another opinion from
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion
You are what you eat, popular wisdom tells us. While I don’t feel overly like a grass fed cow, I’m going with the truism. What you eat DOES affect your overall health and most definitely your skin’s health. Whether you’re soothing dry, flaky skin, preventing wrinkles or healing acne, paying attention to what you put IN your body can make a huge difference. The overall guiding principle is keep it simple and as close to raw and unprocessed as possible, drink lots of water, stay away from trigger foods and most of all, really enjoy what you’re eating.
There are some foods for the skin that are on my must-have list, and a few to stay away from. Full disclosure: I am not a trained doctor, nurse or dietitian. I’m sharing some things i’ve learned through experience and research over the 50 years I’ve spent trying to solve my eczema issues. We've put them together for you in a handy infographic, Eat your Way to Healthy Skin. You can also download it using the link at the bottom of the page. We hope, though, it gives you some inspiration, ideas and food for thought.
And now the disclaimer: Our Eat Your Way to Healthy Skin infographic is intended to provide information only and should not be considered medical advice.
Sherazad Jamal, The Free Lion Team
Spring is a time of New Beginnings. Historically it was a time for celebrating sowing seeds, fertility, renewal and hope. But what does marking this season-change look like in the 21st Century, when our lives are not as driven by agriculture and planting cycles? Spring is a great time to examine the year just passed, to clean out the old, then re-evaluate, plan, and germinate the new.
1. Spring Cleaning
Last year I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was utterly impressed that the author was able to turn her OCD into a business and a best selling book! Of her entire de-cluttering methodology, the part that stayed with me is keep only that which gives you joy. Decluttering is seriously underway in our house right now, using the “Joy Method”. When you clear out physical junk and mental clutter, you make room for new stuff and, more importantly, new ideas and new experiences.
2. Resist, Remove, Replace
Spring Cleaning also extends to your inner world. Your thought patterns directly impact how you feel. In my self-evaluation, I realize I have a lot of thoughts that come up out of fears based on past negative experiences. I feel anxious when these thoughts overtake me. I do not feel joy or a sense of peaceful well being. When it comes to my thoughts, I have a choice. I can keep on in the same fear pattern and expect the same result. Or I can Recognize it, Resist it and Replace it.
To do this, I Recognize my feelings and the thoughts that led to them. I give it a rest and Resist, shut down that negativity. And then its Replace time. I use a variation of Byron Katie’s questions to help me shift perspective. About the fearful thoughts, I ask myself:
3. Set Goals and Intentions for the Year
Okay, so now you’ve cleaned out your junk in your space and in your spirit. It's time to germinate the new, some new ideas, new plans. My life partner Thom and I do this individually first and then as a team. We look at what went right and spend some time being seriously grateful and celebrating! Then we look at what was lousy and problem solve. We try to look at our lives holistically, at all the areas we need to pay attention to in order to experience a healthy, balanced, joyful life.
Then we make a dream board, a way to put on paper our intentions for the year. There are many ways to do this. You can photoshop collage it, scrapbook it, cut out images from magazines, create Pinterest boards or (what we do) just write it out on a large sheet of paper, flow chart style. Our map hangs on the wall the fridge, serving as reminder, inspiration and compass for the year. We consciously shape our decisions and choices throughout the course of each year to make us more joyful, fulfilled and satisfied.
4. Plant a garden, Make Something
This is how I concretize my intentions to create. It helps me connect with the Creative Flow in the earth and within myself. Both can be meditative experiences that give space for that “aha” moment, or for the Muse to speak to or for the imagination to fly. I’ve had some of my best ideas in these moments.
So take some time this spring to celebrate the new life that surrounds you in nature, and to celebrate the wonder that is YOU. Dream your dream and take steps to germinate it into being. Life is a work in progress. It’s not about perfection; it’s about finding joyful balance.