Snail Mail


I was so grateful for some extra time in my PJs today! I'm pretty sure that at the first sign of colder weather, my body prepares for hibernation, because lately I've been pressing the snooze button as many times as possible before prying myself out of bed. This morning I took extra time to stay cozy and write a letter on some stationery I found in my desk.

The sealing wax and stamp were gifts from a long time ago that I used for the very first time today. As you can see, my first attempt was totally upside-down, but hey, it felt pretty darn official, and I was just proud that I melted the wax without scorching the envelope! Actually, sealing wax is pretty easy to use. Just light a match, melt the tip of the wax stick, swirl it around on the envelope and press the stamp. The perfect finishing touch for good old-fashioned snail mail.

Healthy Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding with Kuzu


I'm always looking for excuses to have chocolate, and this pudding is one of the best excuses yet. It uses just five ingredients, is dairy-free, involves minimal clean-up, and (here's the clincher) fights anxiety. The star of the show is kuzu root, which is high in flavonoids proven to aid digestion, relieve stomach cramping, reduce stress and combat insomnia. You can read more about the health benefits of kuzu here; when I have it before bedtime, I sleep better than ever. In terms of its culinary uses, it works well as a thickening agent. 

Although kuzu is not well-known in western cuisine, it's readily available (and affordable) online and at health food stores. I first learned about it when I stumbled upon this recipe via the healthy living website Juiceboks. Based on Erin's pudding, my variation uses chocolate hazelnut milk and sliced local strawberries. If you think that clean eating means giving up comfort food, think again: this easy, low-calorie dessert tastes decadent enough to induce serious cravings...

INGREDIENTS
(serves 4) 

4 Tbsp Maple Syrup
3 Tbsp Crushed Kuzu Root (I order it from Amazon.) 
2 cups Chocolate Hazelnut Milk (I use the brand Pacific.)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 pinch Salt
(+ fruit of your choice, chocolate chips and/or chopped nuts to sprinkle on top)

STEPS

1. Using the back of a spoon, crush the kuzu root starch into a powder. 
2. Mix the kuzu root and maple syrup in a bowl.
3. In a saucepan, combine the chocolate hazelnut milk, kuzu root/maple syrup blend, vanilla extract and salt. 
4. Bring the mixture to a simmer on medium heat, whisking continuously until it thickens. Keep cooking it until it reaches a consistency slightly thicker than gravy. As I learned the hard way, don't cook it for too long or it will become gelatinous! If this happens, just add a little more milk to your mixture. 
5. Pour the mixture into bowls and let cool/set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can prepare the pudding up to a day in advance. 
6. Garnish with fruit, nuts and/or chocolate chips and serve.


I enjoyed my pudding while thumbing through the textbook-size September issue of Vogue. Needless to say, I made a bigger dent in the pudding than in the magazine. Again, thank you to Juiceboks for introducing me to kuzu root and this delicious pudding!

DIY Clear Skin Toner


I've been wanting to mix up my own facial toner for a while now, something to spritz on morning and night that will keep my skin clear and tighten my pores. I decided to start with a safe and simple blend of two ingredients that I know my skin loves: witch hazel and tea tree oil. Both are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and excellent natural remedies for oily, congested or blemished skin. What I came up with is so easy that I feel a little silly calling it a DIY project... but still, it's a start that saves a few bucks and leaves my skin very happy.

I started with Thayers Unscented Witch Hazel, which is in itself a great toner. It contains purified water, aloe, glycerin, witch hazel extract, citric acid, grapefruit seed extract and vitamin E acetate. I noticed that the ingredients in this toner are extremely similar to those in LUSH's Tea Tree Water, so I decided to go from there and mix in my own tea tree oil. I did a bit of research to figure out exactly what proportions of tea tree oil to witch hazel toner would fight breakouts without being too harsh, and I decided to go with a solution of no more than 5% tea tree oil. In a washed spritz bottle, I mixed 100ml of Thayers Unscented Witch Hazel with about 4ml of tea tree oil (I recommend starting with less if you have very sensitive skin... you can always add more!). Mine comes from the brand Tea Tree Therapy, but any good quality one will work. I closed the bottle tight, gave it a good shake and voila, ready for spritzing! I really think that when I use this before bedtime I wake up with smoother, calmed skin.

The great thing about mixing this toner yourself is that in the long run, it's much cheaper than one of my favorite toners, LUSH Tea Tree Water. I paid full price for both the bottle of witch hazel ($10) and the bottle of tea tree oil ($10). For about 100ml of toner, I used about 1/3 of the witch hazel ($3.33) and 1/6 of the tea tree oil ($1.66). That means a 100ml bottle of this toner costs no more than $5 to make, which is half the price of the LUSH tea tree water.

Have you tried any DIY skincare? Did it work?

Mood-Boosting Juice?


We have a new gadget in our household, a Hurom juicer, so I've been the lucky taste-tester for quite a few fruit and veggie cocktails. I started off this morning with a green concoction called the "Depression Kicker," which comes from The Juice Lady's Big Book of Juices & Green Smoothies by Cherie Calbom. The logic behind this recipe is that sodium deficiency mimics the symptoms of depression, so we should make sure to get sodium from healthy sources like celery, chard and spinach. One big glass of this juice contains: 4 ribs of celery, 1 green apple, 1 medium peeled lemon, 1 handful of spinach and 1-2 chard leaves. This juice is thinner and slightly less sweet than the "beauty juice" recipe I blogged about earlier, and it has a lemony kick that I found extremely refreshing! Plus, all that lemon juice has a variety of health benefits: it boosts your immune system, aids in digestion and weight loss and helps combat wrinkles and blemishes. 

If you've never seen a juicer before, it's easy to use: just chop the fruits and veggies and feed them into the juicer. The machine presses the juice through one end and the fiber and waste through the other; you're left with smooth, freshly pressed juice. 

Drinking fresh juice is an easy and efficient way to incorporate raw, unprocessed fruits and veggies into your daily diet, and people who juice regularly notice a huge difference in their skin, hair, nails, mood and overall wellbeing. I'm excited to experiment with different flavors too! Stay healthy, happy and positive, everyone :)

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PS: I recently realized that my blog was listed twice in Bloglovin!  Oospies, I've merged all of the readers into one listing, so now you can Follow my blog with Bloglovin through the links on my site!