I’ve experienced a hair miracle!

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I have a (less than serious) confession: I have horrible allergies. They’re so bad they extend to my hair and my scalp. Luckily I have a fantastic stylist who pointed out that my severe gluten & oat allergy means I need to use gluten free hair products too. That advice made a huge difference in my (formerly) itchy, dry, and yes, embarrassingly flaky scalp. But I recently learned that I need a special weapon to battle my seriously itchy scalp when my seasonal allergies flare up: a Tea Tree + Coconut Oil scalp treatment.

{my stylist is Nina at Urban Betty in Austin}

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I used to dread washing my hair because it would literally hurt me for a day or two after, but now that I use the proper products, that’s not the case… until recently. Pollen counts have been off the charts (up to an 11.6 out of 12!?!) lately here in Austin, and, alongside my gluten allergy, I’m allergic to about every natural substance from dust mites to trees, grasses, weeds, and mold. So when the count gets that high and it is dry out (we are in a drought), my old nemesis, the dry, itchy, painful scalp, comes a-callin’. 

None of the usual tricks were working – I confirmed my products were gluten free (check out the EWG website to learn all about what goes into your goods here), scrubbed my scalp diligently each time I washed it, massaging vigorously, and still I was suffering. Until I had a thought… Coconut oil does wonders for my dry skin, and the Strawberry-Tea Tree-Coconut Oil Sugar scrub I made keeps my skin (& the hubs’) smooth & hydrated… Would it do the same for my problem scalp?

  

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So, I whipped up a Tea Tree + Coconut Oil scalp treatment and… It worked! My scalp feels amazing, looks healthy and shiny, and didn’t itch for almost 24 hours (a huge record for me) and my hair is looking pretty fab. Want to try it? Here’s how you can make it at home, too!

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  1. Put 4-5 tablespoons of coconut oil into a heatsafe container 
  2. Gently melt the oil (either in a hot water bath or 10 seconds in the microwave) and stir
  3. Add 5-8 drops of Tea Tree Oil (otherwise known as Melaleuca)
  4. Stir well
  5. Apply to scalp (I used the measuring spoon) and massage 
  6. Put shower cap on & let sit for about 2 hours (longer if you want, I watched a movie)
  7. Shampoo oil out in the shower
  8. Relish your itch free & dandruff free scalp!

Bonus tip: wetting hair with warm water helps you access your scalp, but isn’t a requirement.

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Why it works:

  • Coconut oil is highly moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, & antibacterial
  • Tea tree oil is antifungal, antibacterial, & antimicrobial 
  • It also boosts blood flow to the scalp, reducing dandruff and stimulating hair growth (learn more here!)

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The only “after” pictures of my hair are these 😂:

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(B & I were Mr. & Mrs. Beaver from The Chronicles of Narnia for the Faith Explorers group of 5th & 6th graders at church this weekend!)

My Favorite Whole30 Resources & A Bonus Gift!

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If you haven’t checked it out already, take a peek at my Whole30 page – it’s full of links that can help you on your Whole30 journey. 

I wanted to share a few of my absolute must-use resources and recipes for a successful and fun (and hopefully not too painful) Whole30 experience! Also: you can do it! The first week is tough, but after that, you can totally make it!

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Best Whole30-Friendly Cookbooks 

 I love using real, printed, cookbooks in the kitchen. Plus, in the event of zombie apocalypse, I’ll still be able to whip up some delightful food. 

  1. The Whole30: 30 Day Guide To Total Health & Food Freedom  by Melissa Hartwig
  2. Food for Humans  by Michelle Tam, aka NomNomPaleo
  3. The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbookby America’s Test Kitchen (note: not everything is Whole30-friendly, but learning and using all the basic and advanced techniques, especially for meat, poultry, and fish, will make your meals more satisfying and you’ll feel like the cooking champion you are!)

Best Whole30 Recipes/Cooking Gear

  1. NomNomPaleo’s homemade mayo – you can’t beat it, and it is so, so good! Watch a video tutorial
  2. Anything from this Food & Wine 30 Awesome Whole30 Recipes list
  3. NomNomPaleo’s Kalua Pig – it really is amazing. Slow Cooker Recipe or Pressure Cooker Recipe
  4.  Instant Pot – I’ll review mine soon, but an Instant Pot is the single best piece of equipment you can have in your kitchen. It makes cooking a breeze, insanely fast, and keeps any cooking smells (like from bone broth) out of your house! Get yours here!
  5. Hip Pressure Cooking’s One Pot Roast Beef – actually anything from Hip Pressure Cooking is excellent, and even includes conversions between types of pressure cookers! It’s a goldmine, y’all.
  6. NomNomPaleo’s Crispy Potatoes – ultimate Whole30 indulgence. And don’t skip the lemon juice – it’s great. Also, I use dried parsley and it’s yummy (for when you don’t have fresh)

Huge Bonus Gift from Alden’s Apron

And, just for you lovely blog readers, here’s a downloadable grocery list with tips & tricks from my Whole30 journey! I hope it helps you a bit! Click on this link to get the PDF: Alden’s Apron Whole30 Checklist  

 

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Want To Fall In Love With Salt Again? Try Pink Salt!

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I was talking to my mom recently about food. Ok, we talk about food almost every time we talk (or text), but this time it was about the most important spice in any kitchen: salt. And I made a recommendation to her that I’ll make to you – switch to Pink Salt. You won’t regret it!

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with salt for my entire adult life: I love how it brings out flavors in foods, but I hate how it makes me puffy, gives me sores on my tongue from overindulging, and has some pretty negative health side-effects. That is, until I made a life altering discovery. I met my new salty love, Pink Salt.

Six years ago, I was living in London, working on my Master’s degree, and battling some health issues. I knew I was gluten-sensitive, and I knew I had issues with certain foods, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So, I dove headlong into health and food research mode, reading anything possible about food, hanging out at the Whole Foods on Kensington High Street, and soaking up all the knowledge my yoga instructors could dish out six days a week.

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This is a timely post for me, because the day I decided to take all of my newfound knowledge and put it to the test was this day, Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Supper Night aka Fat Tuesday aka the reason we have Mardi Gras) five years ago – and I made the decision to use the 40-day season of Lent to recommit myself to health and to treating my body the way I know I should. This was before Whole30 was a thing, so I didn’t have the resources we do now, but with the help of a few other great books (like those by Kimberly Snyder), and a Biblical reason focused on reflecting on the Lord and learning to do without through fasts and taking on new disciplines, I began a 40-day fast of gluten, sugar/sweetener, and anything artificial.

While prepping, I read about how salt isn’t great for my body, and how it elevates blood pressure, how table salt has all sorts of anti-caking agents (artificial stuff I couldn’t have on my new Lent plan) and possible contaminants in it, and I knew from personal experience that even a touch too much salt and I was bloated and puffy for days. I needed a new alternative to salt my food and bring out the flavors in my homemade meals, especially now that I couldn’t replace it with other flavor enhancing items like Soy Sauce (I hadn’t discovered Tamari yet), sugar, and lots of commercial spice blends. What would I put on my food for 40 days?

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I went into the Whole Foods on Kensington High street and ran into an employee there who asked if I needed any help. I usually say “Oh no, just looking, but thanks!” but this time I told her about my salt problem, and she led me to the spice aisle and introduced me to my new best friend: Himalayan Pink Salt. She told me about how

Needless to say, I was sold. I bought my first little shaker of Himalania Pink Salt. Then I graduated up to buying it in larger bags and uses my own salt grinder (to match my pepper grinder), and I haven’t looked back since. In case you’re wondering, in our house we use pink salt in place of any other type of salt – for eggs, for baking, to salt meat. I grind it with the grinder so I can choose the coarseness I need – very coarse for salting meat, fine for seasoning eggs in the morning, you get the idea.

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You can use less Pink Salt than other (white) forms of salt!

Pink Salt made my first 40-day sojourn into health easier. And, a client of mine in London (I edited academic papers for graduate students), ended up writing a paper on Pink Salt from her home in Peru, and her first hand accounts of harvesting and using the gorgeous mineral gave me much needed third-party validation that Pink Salt is the best salt. So, if you are on your own health journey, and you either miss being able to use salt, or you think a salt alternative could be good for you, go get a little thing of pink salt. If nothing else, it sure is pretty!

Bonus: You can find pink salt at almost any grocery store these days, but be prepared to shell out for it. For the best deals, either try Tuesday Morning (you can get a huge grinder bottle there usually for under $10 that will last you at least six months), online, or check around for prices at local healthy food stores.

It’s Winter, Are You OK?

Winter is the easiest time of year to get sick – we spend more time indoors, breathing recirculated air in buildings, the flu is on the rampage, it’s cold (sometimes) and it’s tempting to only eat comfort foods and hibernate.

No one wants to feel run down, constantly battling a cold or runny nose, get achy and have a general malaise. If you have any of these issues (as I do every winter), the following three actions can help.

Cute Winter Dog
Don’t get SAD, get glad!
  1. Take Vitamin D: even if you think you get enough via sunlight and diet, you probably don’t. If you’re worried at all about it, a simple blood test can tell you your level, and just because it is in the “normal” range, doesn’t mean it’s high enough. Normal is for everyone else – you’re extraordinary and want to live an extraordinarily healthy life, so go get a bottle of 5,000mg Vitamin D capsules, take one every morning for a month, and see how you feel. 
    • Bonus: Your hair and nails will be insanely strong and fast-growing the longer you keep this up. My hair grew something crazy like 8+ inches in a year after I started my regimen.
  2. Take Vitamin C: not those gummy chewies, not the drinks, but real deal Vitamin C swallowable pills. The advice I was given that has prevented Brian and me from getting sick this winter (from things that aren’t allergies – can’t vitamin those away… yet) is to start with 500mg on day 1. On day 2, increase to 1000mg, then increase in 500mg increments each day until it makes your stomach hurt. The next day, back off by one (for reference, I take 1500mg/day and Brian takes 2000mg, so I took 2000mg on day 4, tummy hurt, so I backed off to 1500mg on day 5 and continue with that now!) Click for more info.
    • Bonus: The antioxidant Vitamin C will make your skin radiant and help kill cancer-causing free radicals in your body.
  3. Use a Happy Light: What’s a happy light? It’s a special lamp that emits light in a spectrum that simulates the sun (the main two types are by Verilux and Philips). Use it to defeat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), boost your Vitamin D intake, regulate your sleep (you have sleep issues don’t you? if not, I’m supremely jealous, cause I have them like whoa), and make mornings brighter, easier, and more natural. Mayo Clinic agrees.
    • Bonus: I got mine on major discount at Tuesday Morning. Plus, it helps more than just SAD too: click here to read!

Bonus Round… Drink Immunity Tea

Health guru Kimberly Snyder (she’s the original green smoothie evangelist and her book, The Beauty Detox Solution, changed my method of eating and my approach to food in general), has a great Immunity Tea recipe. It works! Get the recipe and step-by-step instructions on her website.

 

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